MARINE CORPS AIR STATION BEAUFORT, S.C. --
Before the Air Station’s F/A-18 Hornets can leave the ground, they must first check in with an essential part of Marine Corps aviation, the Marines of Fightertown’s weather office.
The weather Marines, also affectionately known as the “Weathernecks,” are a vital part of the mission, because they inform pilots of harsh winds and storms that could damage the aircraft and potentially harm the pilot.
“There are certain weather conditions that pilots can’t fly in,” said Sgt. Marshall Williams, a weather forecaster with Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron. “It’s our job to keep the pilots from flying through these conditions.”
Pilots are required to have a weather brief before flying to inform the pilots of any potentially dangerous weather in the vicinity.
“The weather Marines give very detailed briefs to ensure safety, especially if there is any bad weather in the area,” said Maj. James Poppy, a pilot and the Air Station’s safety officer. “Weather Marines are an unrealized asset for each and every Air Station.”
If a storm is heading towards the Tri-Command area, the weather Marines send warnings to ensure precautions and planned safety measures can be implemented. This includes the audible warning systems in the base housing area.
“It’s always a quick reaction with these Marines,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Duane Gumbs, the meteorological and oceanography officer-in-charge. “Time is of the essence during a severe thunderstorm.”
While aboard ship, weather Marines will also track weather conditions for aircraft landings and for pilots taking off to get to the fight.
“If a pilot attempts to land during harsh winds, the jets could be blown sideways and the pilot could crash,” Williams said. “We keep that from happening by getting accurate forecasts to the pilots and keeping them informed of the current conditions aboard the ship.”
While deployed to Iraq, the weather Marines operate from a mobile meteorological facility replacement, which requires two air conditioning units to keep their equipment from overheating, according to Master Sgt. Michael Jordan, the METOC chief.
The “Weathernecks” in Iraq warn Marines in the air and on the ground of sandstorms that could hinder a mission’s progress.
“We would go out on a convoy to remote locations and send back the weather information to Al Asad Air Base,” said Lance Cpl. Justin Grantham, an H&HS weather observer. “This information is extremely important for helicopters who need to medically evacuate wounded Marines.”
The weather Marines aboard the Air Station and around the Corps keep their eyes to the skies to make sure pilots and ground troops can stay informed and prepare for any weather that may blow their way.