U.S. Marines around the world are proudly celebrating 246 years of defending our country on Wednesday, and forecasting remains an essential and critical need to keep troops safe.
Military occupational specialties (MOS) are the foundation of the Marine Corps, and that includes the designation of those who specialize in meteorological and oceanographic (METOC) conditions.
"Our MOS provides meteorological support to aircrews, aircrew services, pilots, and mission-related personnel," said Lance Cpl. Victor Perales, a meteorology and oceanology analyst forecaster with Headquarter and Headquarters Squadron, Marine Corps Air Station Futenma.
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METOC is the only earth science-related job field within the Marine Corps.
"Meteorological and oceanographic conditions have the potential to affect every combatant, piece of equipment, and operation. Knowledge of the natural environment becomes more significant to tactical success in the modern battlespace as technologically advanced weapons, and support systems that are sensitive to METOC conditions are fielded," the U.S. Marine Corps' METOC reads. "Effective METOC operations are critical to Marine expeditionary forces as they seek broader and bolder operational opportunities to project combat power from the sea. Commanders, staff, and operational and tactical mission planners must be aware of and consider the effects of METOC conditions during mission planning through mission execution."
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Marines within the METOC field are well-versed in calculating and analyzing weather conditions, knowing how to proceed when weather hits, and adjusting the operation as needed.
"The most challenging part of my job is having to stay flexible," said Cpl. Darien Huggins, a METOC analyst forecaster with H&HS, MCAS Futenma. "Whenever we do a flight brief for a pilot, there are certain things that come up, like when the aircraft we originally planned for needs more maintenance, so we have to prepare another brief for a different route or take-off time, and sometimes these briefs have to happen as soon as possible. We have to be able to keep up with the pace and to be able to adjust to their needs."
Without the METOC division, the Marine Corps would have to rely on the U.S. Air Force or U.S. Navy to support flights and operations.
The METOC division explains that weather conditions such as rainfall in a grassland where Humvees are routed through can cause hours of delay or gear being ruined or lost due to mud. Because of their extensive training, the rain would be noted, and the route can be changed to evade that situation.
And just like all other meteorologists, METOC Marines know the importance of forecasting and not leaving a device to do so.
"Everyone jokes, my phone can do your job," said Perales. "In a sense, they are not wrong. You can look at your phone for a weather forecast, but your phone isn't going to work out in Thailand. It's not going to work in Korea or in Afghanistan. The simple point is that the Corps needs us. It needs people who can tell there will be turbulence for pilots from just looking at the clouds or that it is going to rain later from looking at past observations. Models on your phone can't' do that because it is a computer, and it can't process all the data like we can. That is why we are so critical for to the Marine Corps."