Combat Weather Article
Combat weathermen move, shoot, communicate with Army SOF
By Tech. Sgt. Ginger Schreitmueller
Air Force Special Operations Command Public Affairs
10/31/00 - HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. (AFPN) -- They are a small band of Air Force
men wearing gray berets, living and working with the U.S. Army Special
Operations Command community. They are the only ones of their kind
within the Department of Defense.
These gray berets are AFSOC's combat weathermen. But, they aren't your
"typical" weathermen boasts the 10th Combat Weather Squadron commander.
"We do things a bit differently than our conventional Air Force
counterparts," said Maj. Bob Russell. "Our guys have to move, shoot and
communicate within the units they live and work with everyday without being
actual members of those units. They do all the normal tasks a weatherman
does, but then we tack on more qualifications, such as maintaining
proficiency in parachuting, survival skills and special
operations unit tactics."
Though Air Force airmen, combat weathermen are not assigned to Air Force
bases. They are tasked to support U. S. Special Operations Command missions,
specifically Army Special Operations units. The 10th CWS, which falls under
the 720th Special Tactics Group, has five detachments and one
operating location in the continental United States.
There are also two overseas combat weather operating locations, and two Air
National Guard Combat Weather Flights.
Along with being weather forecasters, the gray berets have to be soldiers,
too, said the major.
"They can't be a liability to the units they're assigned with," he said.
"These guys are not just weathermen, they're ground forces -- they're Air
"They are living, sleeping, eating, jumping, shooting, fighting and working
side by side with Army Special Forces wherever they go. If they make a bad
call on winds for a jump, their parachute is going to feel the same gusts as
the Army guys they're jumping with. They too are operators and have a vested
interest in accurate forecasting."
Conventional military weathermen often have a different perspective to
forecasting, said Senior Master Sgt. Bruce Perkins, 10th CWS superintendent.
"Conventional weathermen rely on data to analyze and predict," he said.
"Often we are deployed in places where we can only rely on our technical
skills and senses to forecast."
"We're not just inside a building looking at a screen and pulling data down
off a system," added Russell. "We're out in the middle of it."
Being in the midst of a battlefield is another aspect that sets the combat
weatherman apart from other Air Force weathermen.
"You'll find weathermen at nearly all military operations and installations,
most at existing or forward bases," said the major. "But, our focus is
forward of that airfield. You'll find us walking around in the dirt, in
'nowhere land,' providing weather input for a ground commander and the
operational structure above him."
The information a combat weatherman provides is above and beyond what a
home-based weatherman can interject, he said.
"A satellite can only do so much; it's looking from the top down," Russell
said. "We're on the battlefield looking up. Aircrews and decision-makers need
details beyond what a satellite or remote sensor can provide. Our guys are on
the ground making those tough calls. It's more than reading data and
analyzing information; they're observing, measuring, forecasting,
communicating and, when needed, fighting."
A combat weatherman is often the sole weather link on the ground, said
"He's often the only source of weather information in a region. He has to
provide the products to the Special Forces team he's sitting with and relay
it back to the other decision-makers."
The information the combat weatherman is relaying up and down the chain has
to be passed along in user-friendly terms.
"Combat weathermen have to be translators -- bilingual in a sense," said
Russell. "They have to meld the meteorological world with the operations
world in a special ops context. They have to 'de-geek' the technical
meteorology and provide it to the operator in terms he'll understand. They're
making the recommendations on how weather will affect deliberate and
contingency plans, all the way to recovery and reconstitution, and everything
Though combat weathermen have a unique skill, they are not a separate career
"Combat weather is not it's own career field, or even a shredout of the
weather community," said Perkins "They learn how to be weathermen first, then
volunteer to add the additional combat aspect into their job description.
Right now, by the time they've completed their basic technical and upgrade
training, they'll have almost three years as weathermen before they can
volunteer for combat weather."
When someone volunteers for combat weather, and the right to wear the gray
beret, he's entering a high-impact job, Russell said.
"Weather is a diverse mission area. It somehow effects everyone, everywhere.
When it comes to a military mission, weather can impact everything from the
tactical to the strategic level operations and decisions," he said. "Combat
weathermen bring together that vital weather information at the right place,
in the right format to meet operational needs at all levels.
"They provide a combination you won't find anywhere else."