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Airmen follow challenging road to earn gray beret
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Weather warriors  Airmen follow challenging road to earn gray beret
Staff Sgt. Jorge Arellano, a combat weather student in the 335th TRS, goes through physical training with combat control students from the 334th TRS Feb. 25 in Matero Hall. (U.S. Air Force photo by Kemberly Groue)
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Weather warriors
Airmen follow challenging road to earn gray beret

Posted 3/3/2010   Updated 3/3/2010 Email story   Print story


by Master Sgt. Warler Chumney and Staff Sgt. Trenton Seegmiller
336th Training Squadron

3/3/2010 - KEESLER AFB, Ms. -- As you drive along Highway 90 to Keesler, have you ever wondered who those people are in formation marching with ruck sacks across the Ocean Springs Bridge or running drills in those distinctive black shorts on Biloxi's beach? These young hard-working Airmen are Keesler's own future special operations forces in training.

Keesler has trained Airmen from the special operations community for decades, particularly the combat controllers in the 335th Training Squadron, but now the newest Air Force special operations candidates have joined them -- the special operations weather team trainees in the 335th TRS who fall under Air Force Specialty Code 1W0X2

As the Air Force's newest special operations specialty, these weather warriors are the Department of Defense's only meteorological asset authorized to operate in hostile or denied territory to gather and interpret weather data providing intelligence while working primarily with U.S. special operations forces.

Their meteorological data provides localized environmental intelligence to enhance mission planning, as well as accurate and mission-tailored target and route forecasts in support of global special operations. Their unique skills are employed to conduct special reconnaissance and train foreign national forces as well as members of U.S. Special Operations Command to take and report limited weather observations; collect upper air data; organize, establish and maintain data reporting networks; and determine host and hostile nation meteorological capabilities.

The road to becoming a member of the special operations weather career field is unique, challenging and takes nearly 2½ years.

Candidates first attend a two-week selection course at Lackland Air Force Base following either eight weeks of basic military training or retraining. During the selection course, SOWT trainees join combat control team candidates and are rigorously tested mentally and physically. This combined training sets a pattern for years to follow, since much of the SOWT and CCT training is conducted jointly. After successful graduation from the selection course, candidates come to Keesler to begin the seven-month special operations weather course.

From 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., the 335th TRS provides academic training alongside students in the weather forecaster apprentice course. However, SOWT students begin the day long before that. Prior to classroom hours, military and physical training includes calisthenics, ruck marches, weight training, swimming and circuit training administered by a joint cadre of field-tested and seasoned instructors from the 334th and 335th TRS.

Graduates of the SOWT course then head to airborne school at Fort Benning, Ga., and survival, evasion, resistance and escape training at Fairchild AFB, Wash., before proceeding to Pope AFB, N.C., for the SOWT apprentice course.

At Pope, trainees learn to apply their unique skills in a tactical environment, taking their joint training beyond physical conditioning to learn their place in the world of special operations. Trainees perform multi-day full mission profiles, practicing their newfound skill sets in the controlled field environments.

At graduation, students are awarded their 3-level skill level and are authorized to wear the distinctive gray beret.

A newly-minted weather warrior may be assigned to the 10th Combat Weather Squadron Hurlburt Field, Fla., the only special operations weather squadron in the world. Other possible assignments may include special tactics squadrons at Pope, Kadena Air Base, Japan, or Mildenhall Air Base, England. They may even find themselves assigned to detachments or operating locations at Fort Campbell, Ky., Fort Bragg, N.C., Fort Lewis, Wash., Fort Benning, Ga., or Fort Carson, Colo.

SOWT operators at Hurlburt Field and around the world are anxiously awaiting new members to fill their undermanned corps. Weather warriors are among the most deployed specialty in the Air Force, with often less than three months on home station per year. The new SOWT training pipeline will allow them to continue to support future contingency operations in the future.

8/23/2013 4:01:40 PM ET
JOHN E.LANGHALS, norwalkohio 44857
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