United States Air Force Special Operations Weather Technician
|U.S. Air Force Special Operations Weather Team|
U.S. Air Force Special Operations Weather Team Insignia
|Country||United States of America|
|Branch||United States Air Force|
|Type||Special Operations Force|
|Part of|| United States Special Operations Command
Air Force Special Operations Command
Special Operations Weather Team (SOWT) (AFSC 1W0X2) specialists are tactical observer/forecasters with ground combat capabilities and fall under the 720th Special Tactics Group within the Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC). The mission of a Special Operations Weather Team Specialist is to deploy by the most feasible means available into combat and non-permissive environments to collect and interpret meteorological data and provide air and ground forces commanders with timely, accurate intelligence. They collect data, assist mission planning, generate accurate and mission-tailored target and route forecasts in support of global special operations, conduct special weather reconnaissance and train foreign national forces. SOWTs provide vital intelligence and deploy with joint air and ground forces in support of direct action, counter-terrorism, foreign internal defense, humanitarian assistance, special reconnaissance, austere airfield, and combat search and rescue.
During World War II, Air Force's combat weathermen supported the American effort against the Japanese in the China-Burma-India theater of operations. They also participated in the European theater at Normandy Beach, France; and in the Netherlands and Yugoslavia.
The 10th Weather Squadron reactivated at Udorn Royal Thai Air Force Base in Thailand, to conduct combat weather operations in Southeast Asia on 16 June 1966. The squadron trained indigenous weather personnel and set up the clandestine weather observation networks throughout Southeast Asia. The 10th Weather Squadron played an important part in the raid on the Son Tay POW camp (a.k.a. Operation Ivory Coast) of 1970. The mission was planned around advanced weather reconnaissance by the 10th WS. It has been reported that elements of the 10th WS also conducted on-the-ground weather reconnaissance in areas along the Ho Chi Minh trail in support of covert air interdiction, strafing, and armed reconnaissance missions against the communist Viet Cong guerillas & North Vietnamese Army soldiers that used the trail.
Special operations weathermen have directly participated in the majority of modern special operations contingency operations since Operation Urgent Fury, the U.S. invasion of Grenada working with other special operations and conventional forces. These recent successes include operations Just Cause in Panama, Desert Shield/Desert Storm, Task Force Ranger operations in Somalia, Uphold Democracy in Haiti, operations in Bosnia and counter narcotics operations in South America, as well as ongoing operations in support of Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.
Special operations weathermen were not included in the failed US embassy hostage rescue attempt in Iran in 1980, known as Operation Eagle Claw. A report by the Holloway Commission, formed to examine what went wrong with the mission, pointed out that the lack of weather intelligence personnel on the ground was one of the key factors in the mission failure.
- 15 May 1942—Parachute School is established at Fort Benning, Georgia. It is a three-week course students attend en route to their duty assignment.
- 24 June 1942—Combat weathermen support the American effort against the Japanese in the China-Burma-India theater of operations.
- June 1944—Combat weathermen see action during World War II at Normandy Beach, France; and, in the Netherlands and Yugoslavia.
- 16 June 1966—The 10th Weather Squadron is reactivated at Udon Airfield, Thailand, to conduct combat weather operations in Southeast Asia. The squadron is responsible for training indigenous weather personnel and setting up the clandestine weather observation networks throughout Southeast Asia.
- November 1971—Personnel from the 10th WS are key players in many successful special operations including the highly weather dependent Son Tay Raid. Timing for the Son Tay Raid was advanced by 24 hours based on the three-day forecast. Weather support personnel successfully forecast the only 12 hours of "go" conditions during a 38-day period.
Special operations weathermen are among the most highly trained personnel in the U.S. military. They maintain the same weather weapon system qualifications as all Air Force weathermen in addition to advanced special tactics skills. Their 2.5 to 3 years of training and unique mission skills earn them the grey beret. Previously, only those who were already in a weather-related specialty were recruited for training, but on 5 May 2008, the Air Force approved the establishment of a new Air Force Specialty Code for Special Operations Weather, formally recognizing their commitment to deploy into restricted environments by air, land or sea to conduct weather operations, observe and analyze all weather data and environmental intelligence.
- Special Operations Weather Selection Course, Lackland Air Force Base, Texas (two weeks)
This course focuses on sports physiology, nutrition, basic exercises, special operations weather history and fundamentals.
This course prepares special operations weather apprentices. Training includes basic, intermediate, and advanced meteorology, report writing and computer usage. Other topics include satellite meteorology, weather chart analysis, weather radar, weather products, tropical meteorology, synoptic level analytical meteorology, weather prognosis techniques, forecasting weather elements to include severe weather, synoptic lab, forecasting lab, and a unit on the weather career field and weather equipment. Additionally, this time is also used to train students physically and mentally for the rigors of the rest of their pipeline. Students train alongside combat controllers to develop the team mindset they will use during their career.
This course teaches basic survival techniques for remote areas. Instruction includes principles, procedures, equipment and techniques, which enable individuals to survive, regardless of climatic conditions or unfriendly environments and return home.
This two-day course teaches principles, procedures, techniques, and equipment that enhance the ability to survive in a water environment and return to friendly control.
This course teaches the principles, procedures, and techniques necessary to successfully egress from a sinking aircraft. Experiencing water entry and performing underwater egress is part of the training.
- Special Operations Weather Apprentice Course (Combat Control School), Pope Field, North Carolina (13 weeks)
This 13-week course provides final special operations weather qualifications. Training includes physical training, austere weather operations, tactical weather observations, small unit tactics, land navigation, communications, demolitions, and field operations including parachuting. Upon completing the course graduates are awarded a 3-skill level (apprentice), gray beret and SOWT crest.
- Special Tactics Training Squadron, Hurlburt Field, Florida (12–15 months)
This four phase course, formal training, core tasks, employment readiness training, and operational readiness training, produces operators ready for deployment as special operations weathermen
- Core Training Available During Operational Duty
The following is a list of schools which are available to certain SOWT candidates based upon the needs of their unit and the Air Force: Riverine Assessment, Avalanche Survival Training, Military Freefall (HALO/HAHO), SCUBA 
Special Operations Weathermen are U.S. Air Force meteorologists with unique training to operate in hostile or denied territory. They gather, assess, and interpret weather and environmental intelligence from forward deployed locations, working primarily with Air Force and Army Special Operations Forces. SOWTs can also be attached to Marine MARSOC and Navy SEAL teams. They collect weather, ocean, river, snow and terrain intelligence, assist mission planning, generate accurate mission-tailored target and route forecasts in support of global special operations and train joint force members and coalition partners to take and communicate limited weather observations. Additionally, Special Operations Weathermen conduct special reconnaissance, collect upper air data, organize, establish and maintain weather data reporting networks, determine host nation meteorological capabilities and train foreign national forces. Every Special Operations Forces mission is planned using the intelligence and coordination of special operations weathermen.
Special Operations Weather Team members were known as Air Commando Weathermen in the 1960s, and Special Operations Weather Team members through the 1970s and 1980s. They were known as Combat Weathermen until the late 1990s when base weather stations were "redesignated" as Combat Weather Teams (CWT). This caused quite a bit of confusion and prompted the name change from Combat Weatherman to Special Operations Weather Team specialists. Today's Combat Weather Teams typically provide front-line combat weather support to regular Army, Navy, Marine, Air Force, and Coast Guard units and their members receive combat training depending on the types of units they support.
Air Force special operations weathermen now have a new specialty code they can call their own.
Recruiters can enlist trainees directly into the 1W0X2 special operations weathermen career field since the new Air Force specialty code is now in the enlisted classification directory.
Before this new AFSC, weather Airmen applied to become special operations weather after already being in the Air Force. They were sent to work and live on Army post, where they relied on the Army for equipment and training. There was no standardized training, according to Chief Master Sgt. Andrew Hopwood, Air Force Special Operations Command weather functional manager.
"The new AFSC will provide special operations weathermen the right technical, physical and tactical training from day one. This will greatly enhance their battlefield observing, environmental reconnaissance and forecasting missions," said Chief Hopwood.
Because of time between classes, Airmen previously spent four years training to become special operations weathermen. Under the new program, they will finish training in approximately two and half years. The first Basic Military Training graduates enter the new training pipeline January 2009.
Trainees will attend the two-week Special Operations Weathermen Selection Course at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. This is a physical training assessment with progressive training to prepare candidates for the next phase.
After the selection course, students will attend their initial skills course at Keesler AFB, Miss., for 30 weeks where they will go through the Air Force Weather Course and endure additional physical training elements.
Upon completion of their initial skills course, they will earn their jump qualification from Airborne school at Fort Benning, GA, and attend Survival school at Fairchild AFB, WA. They will then train side-by-side with combat controllers at the Special Operations Weather Apprentice Course at Pope Field, NC, before being assigned to the Special Tactics Training Squadron here. They will learn additional weather skills necessary to deploy and operate in stressful environments. Training will also include basic communication, navigation, employment techniques, weapons training and small unit tactics.
Special operations weathermen have now over 150 slots, but are currently only 65 percent manned. Once Airmen become special operations weathermen, they will be assigned to Hurlburt's 10th Combat Weather Squadron and will be stationed at detachments across the United States. These assignments include:
Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC)
AFSOC/DOW, Hurlburt Field, FL 720th Special Tactics Group, Hurlburt Field, FL
HQ 10th Combat Weather Squadron, Hurlburt Field, FL
OL-A, Fort Lewis, WA
Det 2, Fort Campbell KY
OL-B, Fort Carson, CO
OL-C, Fort Benning, GA
OL-D, Fort Bragg, NC
321st Special Tactics Sq, RAF Mildenhall, UK
320th Special Tactics Sq, Torii Station, Japan
US Army Special Operations Command, Fort Bragg, NC
Air National Guard (ANG)
123d Special Tactics Sq, Louisville, KY
125th Special Tactics Sq, Portland, OR
107th Weather Flight, 25090 Altus Street, Bldg 1414, Selfridge Air National Guard Base, MI 48045 (near Detroit)
- Supports the ARNG's 20th Special Forces Group (Airborne)
146th Weather Flight, GTR Pittsburgh Air Guard Station, PA 15108
- Supports the 919th Special Operations Wing (AFRES), the 193rd Special Operations Wing (PA ANG), and the 2nd Psychological Operations Group (USAR) (2nd POG has Airborne elements assigned).
181st Weather Flight, Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth/Carswell Field, TX 76127
- Supports the ARNG's 19th Special Forces Group (Airborne)
- United States Special Operations Forces
- List of United States Air Force special tactics squadrons
- Air Force Weather Agency
- Military meteorology
- "Special Operations Weather Team Fact Sheet". Air Force Link. United States Air Force. October 2007. Archived from the original on 12 November 2008. Retrieved 23 November 2008.
- "Special Operations Weather Fact Sheet". Air Force Special Operations Command. United States Air Force. October 2008. Retrieved 24 November 2008.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Air Force Special Operations Weather Team.|
- Air Force Link Factsheet: Special Operations Weather Team
- National Weather Association's Air Force Weather page – Good explanation of today's CWTs
- Feature on Air Force Link (Dec 2005)