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Airmen attend Army weather course

FORT HUACHUCA, Ariz. -- Staff Sgt. Kenneth Sutton and Senior Airman Christopher Patterson fine-tune the alignment of a satellite receiver during a portion of the staff weather officer pilot course here.  The course teaches airmen to provide weather support for Army operations.  (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Matthew Chlosta)

FORT HUACHUCA, Ariz. -- Staff Sgt. Kenneth Sutton and Senior Airman Christopher Patterson fine-tune the alignment of a satellite receiver during a portion of the staff weather officer pilot course here. The course teaches airmen to provide weather support for Army operations. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Matthew Chlosta)

FORT HUACHUCA, Ariz. (AFPN) -- Several experienced Air Force forecasters completed a pilot version of a new course designed to help airmen provide weather support for Army operations.

The first official staff weather officer course is scheduled for October. Its instructors teach Air Force weather specialists some of the Army’s field skills, tactics and organizations.

The weather specialists will be assigned to Army units, according to Bill Simcox, the course administrator and a retired Air Force forecaster.

“We give the Air Force forecasters a common baseline in Army tactics by training them ourselves,” said Army Capt. Vikki Severn, Company B’s commander from the 304th Military Intelligence Battalion. “When they come here, they learn the basics, so when they get out in the field and are forward deployed, they are ready.”

The pilot course had 14 students, mostly Air Force veterans, who have served in high-tempo combat and training environments.

“The war veterans are here to give us input (to enhance the course),” Simcox said.

“I know what (airmen) will need out in the field,” said Master Sgt. Jonathan Morris, from Ansbach, Germany. “This course will help (them go) into combat with a forward Army unit.”

“It can be kind of intimidating going to an Army unit from the Air Force culture when you don’t know what is going on or what to expect,” he said.

Instructors taught land navigation, reaction to indirect artillery fire and self-defense during a convoy ambushed similar to what happened to the 507th Maintenance Company during Operation Iraqi Freedom, Simcox said.

This course exploits the capabilities of working together in a constantly changing military environment, Morris said.

“This is a good way to equate the ways that the Army and Air Force are different,” said Senior Airman Michael Bliss, from the 15th Operational Weather Squadron at Scott Air Force Base, Ill. “It has been a good learning experience. I get to see how important my job is and what the Army needs for operations.

“It’s great getting information from so many seasoned veterans from the field,” he said. “This training is more operational for me. I get to see how my forecasts will provide the conditions for an operation.

“The forecasts will have impact on equipment, troop movement and basically everything,” Bliss said. “The ... course is (important) with real-world glimpses of what may happen and what needs to happen.”

Weather forecasters assist the Army units by reporting upcoming weather conditions, according to Tech. Sgt. Tom Hakes, a course instructor.

“The forecasts can influence each Army unit commander’s decisions, which help coordinate air cover and troop movements,” he said. “This can include ... how to best tie down equipment in the face of oncoming dust storms.”

Sometimes soldiers march to a rally point rather than being airlifted, based on the forecasters’ outlook, Hakes said.

“The (forecasters are) a vital piece of the mission,” Severn said. “All Army units are supposed to have (one) when they are deployed to the field.”

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