Special Operations Weather Technicians (SOWT) (Air Force Specialty Code 1W0X2) 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 Technician 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 Airfield, Thailand, to conduct combat weather operations in Southeast Asia on June 16, 1966. The squadron trained indigenous weather personnel and set up the clandestine weather observation networks throughout Southeast Asia.
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.
- May 15, 1942 -- Parachute School is established at Fort Benning, Georgia. It is a three-week course students attend en route to their duty assignment.
- June 24, 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.
- June 16, 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.
Combat 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 Operation Enduring Freedom.
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 61 weeks of training and unique mission skills earn them the right to wear the gray beret. On May 5, 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.
- Special Operations Weather Initial Skills Course, Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi (30 weeks)
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.
Trainees learn the basic parachuting skills required to infiltrate an objective area by static line airdrop.
- Air Force Basic Survival School, Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington (2.5 weeks)
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.
- Air Force Water Survival Training, Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington (two days)
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.
- Air Force Underwater Egress Training, Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington (one day)
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, Pope Air Force Base, 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 (journeymen), gray beret and SOWT crest.
- Special Tactics Advanced Skills Training, Hurlburt Field, Florida (12-15 months)
This three phase course, initial skills, core tasks, and operational readiness training, produces operators ready for deployment as combat weathermen.
Special Operations Weathermen are 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. 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 Technicians 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 Technician. 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 will 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, Wash. They will then train side-by-side with combat controllers at the Special Operations Weather Apprentice Course at Pope AFB, N.C., 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 99 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
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- Air Force Link Factsheet: Combat Weathermen - The AF Factsheet is still referring to SOWTs as Combat Weathermen
- National Weather Association's Air Force Weather page - Good explanation of today's CWTs
- Feature on Air Force Link (Dec 2005)