As the Navy’s experts in meteorology and oceanography, Aerographer’s Mates are tasked with the collection and interpretation of weather and oceanographic data. This involves monitoring temperature (air and water), humidity, wind speed and direction, and air pressure, then disseminating the raw data to appropriate units both onboard and onshore, as well as using the information to craft forecasts necessary for the planning of various short- and long-term operations.
Duties also include the testing, maintenance, and calibration of meteorological equipment; launching balloon-carried equipment and analyzing the data it returns; and carrying out a full spectrum of computer operations (programming, maintenance, and end use).
The scope of an AG’s duties has widened considerably since the rating was established on July 1, 1924 to fill the need for aviation-related weather forecasts as the Navy took its first steps into the Age of Aircraft Carriers. Alexander G. McAdie, a professor of Meteorology at Harvard and one-time member of the Signal Corps, not only came up with the “aerographer” title, but also taught the first classes in aviation-related weather, or aerology; the first class graduated from Naval Air Station Lakehurst in 1929. In 1942, the rating was switched Aerographer to Aerographer’s Mate.
Originally dubbed “Weather Guessers,” AG’s expertise in all things meteorological has made them a highly valued resource during search-and-rescue operations. AGs provided critical information to ensure fleet safety and determine possible wreckage sites during the search for Flight MH370, and in 2014 two Aerographer’s Mates on the USS Iwo Jima used weather, oceanographic, and navigation data to narrow the search for a man overboard; the missing sailor was found less than 1100 meters from they predicted his location would be.
The AG school moved from Lakehurst, New Jersey to Chanute Air Force Base in Illinois in 1977. Currently, AG training is conducted at the Center for Naval Aviation Technical Training Unit at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Mississippi.