USAF METEOROLOGIST BADGE
Weather has been inextricably linked to the outcomes of military operations since time immemorial, and the list of instances of how weather events—both expected and freakishly rare—have tilted the course war is nearly inexhaustible. In the United States Air Force, three Specialties are dedicated to analyzing weather data and making forecasts and recommending appropriate responses: enlisted Air Force Specialty Codes 1W0X1 Weather and 1W0X2 Special Operations Weather, and the officer specialty code 15WX.
While weather can impact any sort of military operation, it can be an especially important factor in Air Force operations. High winds can disrupt airfield operations, overcast skies can neutralize surveillance efforts, rain and snow can wreak havoc on logistics operations—the list is seemingly endless. The United States Air Force has, of course, recognized the incredible importance of being able to make accurate forecasts in order to maximize operational effectiveness and ensure combat preparedness and readiness. At times they’ve even considered ways in which the weather might be harnessed to provide tactical and strategic advances (see the 1996 white paper, “Weather as a Force Multiplier: Owning the Weather in 2025”).
This realization of the value of accurate weather forecasting is reflected in the length and depth of training that Weather and Specials Operations Weather specialists receive. Following completion of Basic Training, Airmen in these specialties attend The Weather Forecaster Apprentice Course, held at Keesler Air Force Base in Mississippi. During the eight-month course, they learn the basics of meteorology and weather forecasting, in particular the use advanced computer modeling systems that incorporate data from ground-, sea-, and satellite-based sensors.
Completion of the Apprentice Course is followed by an assignment to an Operational Weather Squadron assigned to regional weather hubs established in critical theaters of operation across the globe. Here, they’ll receive up to two years of on-the-job training that enables their qualification and certification in different areas of the meteorological arts and sciences. With this real-life experience under their belts, they return to Keesler for three months of training in Weather Observation before being assigned to weather squadron.
Weather Officers candidates must have a bachelor’s degree with a specialization in a field related to weather such as meteorology atmospheric sciences, and they also must complete the Basic Meteorology Program. (Any programs related to degrees in atmospheric sciences are required to adhere to the World Meteorological Organization’s basic instruction package). Weather Officers naturally must complete the Officer Training School program at Maxwell Air Force Base, but before they can even begin journeying down this career path they have to pass a Single Scope Background Investigation—just another reminder of the value the Air Force places on weather and meteorological information and the tactical or strategic advantages that can be gained through its proper exploitation.
The Meteorologist badge is awarded at Basic, Senior, and Master levels. An officer will be eligible for the Senior level at the 7-year point in the specialty, and for the Master level after 15 years. Enlisted personnel are awarded the Basic badge upon completion of Technical school, and are awarded the Senior-level badge upon reaching the 7-skill level.