CENTRAL COMMAND AREA OF OPERATIONS -- On the staff of the 22d Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) are pair of Marines who are breaking new ground for Marine Corps meteorologists. The MEU's Mobile Meteorological Support Team (METOC) is the first organic part of a deployed expeditionary unit.
METOC consists of a weather forecaster, who predicts the future weather patterns, and a weather observer, who relays information on current weather conditions. These Marines are shattering the stigmas surrounding the MMST Marines.
"We have a broad mission," says Sgt. Russell White, the team's weather observer from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. "There are 27 different states of the sky and we have to determine cloud levels and visibility for pilots, so we don't just look up at the sky."
One of METOC's primary missions is to support the MEU's aviation combat element, Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 261. During flight operations, METOC constantly gathers weather data and updates the forecast twice an hour. White is responsible for decoding information from the Telefax coded weather data system, an international satellite weather system.
Each morning, the METOC chief, Gunnery Sgt. Steven Saxton, briefs the MEU staff on how weather could affect the MEU's capabilities for operations during the day.
"The oceanographic part of our job consists of forecasting currents, tides, water temperatures and swells, and letting the commanding officer know how these things affect everything from a PRC-119 field radio to an LCAC (Landing Craft, Air Cushion)," said Saxton, of Grand Rapids, Michigan.
METOC Marines have to be trained in all aspects of weather information gathering, from satellite surveillance to weather balloons. They learn these skills in a rigorous joint Department of Defense school at Keesler Air Force Base, in Biloxi, Mississippi.
"It's a good job to learn, and you work with educated, energetic people," said White. "It's interesting to get into every aspect of weather and weather phenomenon, I really like it."
For more information on the 22d MEU (SOC), visit the unit's website at www.22meu.usmc.mil.