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Special Operations Weather Teams

Special Operations Weathermen, commonly referred to as SOWTs, are meteorologists with advanced tactical training to operate in hostile or denied territory. They gather and interpret weather data and provide intelligence from deployed locations to support and enable operational goals.

Their motto, "Coela Bellatores," or "Weather Warriors," reaffirms the commitment to deploy into restricted environments by air, land or sea to observe and analyze all weather data from "mud to sun."

Operations

SOWTs are special operators with advanced meteorological and oceanographic skill sets. They are Air Force Special Tactics members assigned to the 24th Special Operations Wing, 320th Special Tactics Squadron, and 321st Special Tactics Squadron – all units under Air Force Special Operations Command.

Operating in all climates, day or night, special operations weathermen maintain the highest standards of physical fitness and proficiency in the use of light weapons.
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.

Capabilities

SOWTs can establish weather networks in austere combat locations, giving battlefield commanders real-time ground truth weather information that may impact deployment, movement and engagement decisions.

Special Operations Weather Team Airmen are Air Force meteorologists with unique training to operate in hostile or denied territory. They gather, assess, interpret environmental data and forecast operational impacts from forward deployed locations, working primarily with Air Force and Army Special Operations Forces. They collect critical weather, ocean, river, snow and terrain data, 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 environmental 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 analyses and coordination of special operations weathermen.

Weather Warriors: The History

The U.S. Army Weather Service originated in 1917 to provide the American Expeditionary Forces with "all the meteorological information needed; and to undertake special investigations in military meteorology and related problems". They first took part in World War I combat operations in France in 1918.

During World War II, specially trained weather observers, sometimes referred to as guerrilla weathermen, infiltrated behind enemy lines to provide weather intelligence in support of air strikes, airlifts and airdrops. In 1947, the Weather Service transferred to the new Air Force with the provision to continue providing meteorological services to the Army. During the Vietnam War, special warfare or commando weathermen provided forward observations and established weather networks in Cambodia and Laos.

In every conflict since Vietnam, special operations weathermen were with initial entry forces leading the way, undertaking the most dangerous missions behind enemy lines, conducting austere weather operations, and taking observations critical to the success of follow-on forces.

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 environmental data.

Take the Challenge

Click here for FAQs. If you want more information, please contact the Special Tactics Recruiting, Assessment and Selection section at 24SOW.RAS.org@us.af.mil or 850-884-8094.

Training

Special operations weathermen conduct the same technical training as all Air Force weathermen. Unlike other special operations forces, special operations weather only recruits from existing resources within the weather career field.

Training includes:

  • Combat Control / Special Operations Weather Team Selection Course, Lackland AFB, Texas. This 10-day selection course focuses on physical fitness with classes in sports physiology, nutrition, basic exercises, CCT / SOWT history and fundamentals.
  • Special Operations Weather Initial Skills Course, Keesler AFB, Miss. - This 29-week course prepares Air Force special operations weather apprentices. Training includes basic, intermediate, and advanced meteorology, meteorological reports and computer operations. 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. This is the same course, with the inclusion of rigorous fitness progression training, that all Air Force weather apprentices attend and is the core skill of special operations weathermen.
  •  U.S. Army Airborne School, Fort Benning, Ga. -- Trainees learn basic parachuting skills required to infiltrate an objective area by static line airdrop in a three-week course.
  •  U.S. Air Force Basic Survival School, Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash. -- This two and a half-week course teaches basic survival techniques for remote areas. This includes instruction of techniques in survival, evasion and escape.
  • U.S. Air Force Water Survival School, Pensacola Naval Air Station, Fla. -- This one-week course teaches basic water survival techniques.
  • U.S. Air Force Underwater Egress Training, Fairchild AFB, Wash. - This two-day course teaches the principles, procedures, and techniques necessary to successfully egress from a sinking aircraft. Training requires personnel to actually experience water entry and to perform underwater egress.
  • Special Operations Weather Course (SOWAC), Pope Army Airfield, N.C. --This 8-week course is an AFSC awarding 3-level course attended by enlisted Special Operations weather personnel. Training includes communications, land navigation, assault zone operations, demolitions, small unit tactics, as well as Special Operations Weather Team specific training such as single station analysis, limited data forecasting and tactical meteorological equipment. This training concludes with the execution of a full scale field training exercise.
  • Advanced Skills Training, Special Tactics Training Squadron, Hurlburt Field, Fla. The Special Tactics Training Squadron produces mission-ready operators for the Air Force and U.S. Special Operations Command. STTS provides a 12-to-15-month program for newly assigned combat controller / Special Operations Weather Team operators to learn advanced skill specific to the career field, prior to being assigned to an operational squadron. The STTS schedule is broken down into four phases: Formal Training, Core Task,, Employment Readiness Training, and Operational Readiness Training. The course tests the trainee's personal limits through demanding mental and physical training. SOWT also attend the following schools while assigned to STTS:
    • Special Tactics Training-- Special Tactics Training Squadron employs a "warrior training warrior" philosophy, teaching the skills necessary for successful service in the Special Tactics community. The six-month training school includes advanced communication, navigation techniques, employment techniques, weapons training and small unit tactics.