3rd Weather Squadron

Support to the

1st Cavalry Division

by Master Sergeant Milton G. Kooyman, Jr., USAF  

The Army operates in all types of weather. Soldiers train in freezing temperatures while occupying in-ground foxholes. Tanks can traverse soggy terrain and cross swollen streams. Artillery shells can fire through clouds, rain, and snow.

In contrast, Air Force aircraft can be grounded by cloud cover and winds. Similarly, rough seas can limit the Navy's ability to perform certain missions. But the majority of the Army can fight in all types of weather.

Nevertheless, weather can have a significant impact on Army operations, especially because of the increasingly technological manner in which we fight. For that reason, the Army is still highly dependent on expert weather support. Army divisions rely on support from U.S. Air Force (USAF) personnel, like the 3d Weather Squadron which supports the 1st Cavalry Division.

Squadron History

The 3d Weather Squadron was formed at Barksdale Field (now Barksdale Air Force Base (AFB)), Louisiana, on 24 June 1937, as part of the Signal Corps. The 3d was one of the three original squadrons that eventually transferred from the Signal Corps to the Air Corps. Currently, the 3d Weather Squadron is aligned under the 3d Air Support Operations Group. Weather support to Fort Hood began in 1947 at the newly constructed Killeen AFB. Today, the award-winning 3d Weather Squadron--in addition to providing weather support to the Fort Hood complex--has operating locations at Forts Bliss, Huachuca, Riley, and Sill in Texas, Arizona, Kansas, and Oklahoma, respectively.

The 3d Weather Squadron is currently the largest base- or post-level weather unit in the Air Force. The support provided by the squadron is as diverse as its history and that of the Army customers it supports. For example, the squadron maintains a 24-hour observing and forecasting section at Robert Gray Army Airfield with extended observing hours at Hood Army Airfield.

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Senior Airman Eric Andrews inputs the weather observations into the computer while First Class   Daniel Clark plots a surface chart.

Tactical Weather Teams

There are five tactical Weather Teams (WETMs) that support the following Army units at Fort Hood:

Some of the services provided by the WETMs include both local and worldwide flying forecasts, climatic summaries, operations plan annexes, and semiannual weather briefings that provide our customers with the information they need to plan for operations and exercises.

The unit that works most closely with the 1st Cavalry Division is the 1st Cavalry WETM which is comprised of a staff weather officer (SWO), a noncommissioned officer in charge (NCOIC), two forecasters, and four observers. Aligned under the division's G2, the team supports the 1st Cavalry Division in numerous field exercises and contingency operations. The team has the opportunity to deploy, train, and hone its skills in some of the worst weather conditions that central Texas has to offer, including extreme heat, thunderstorms, tornadoes, and ice storms.

By working closely with the 1st Cavalry Division, the division's WETM has helped the "FIRST TEAM" to use the weather as a combat multiplier. Extensive interaction between the WETM and the division has paid off in various ways. For example, combat commanders learn how weapon systems will be affected by the current cloud cover and precipitation. Also, the commanders receive a precise forecast of expected terrain conditions. Figure 1 shows an example of one of our products that is designed to inform the commander of the effects that the weather will have on the tactical environment. Helicopter pilots are told the range at which they will be able to detect and destroy the enemy using their night vision and infrared devices. The division is better informed about its capabilities and limitations well in advance of the operation at hand.

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Figure 1. Sample Weather Data Report.

Modernizing Equipment

The 1st Cavalry Division and the 3d Weather Squadron use some of the newest meteorological technology and state-of-the-art equipment available. At this time, the WETMs produce weather support information using an Integrated Meteorological System (IMETS). This advanced system allows for the interception of both alphanumeric and graphic weather information from numerous locations including all military and most civilian weather services. For example, the IMETS receives data concerning the upper air and surface conditions from the Air Force Global Weather Center. Weather charts and data can be received through high-frequency radio broadcast and satellite transmissions, telephone lines, and across local area networks (LANs).

The IMETS also has the ability to receive data through FM receivers; we can use these radios to transmit important weather information to numerous sites, both simultaneously and selectively. This ability has reduced the amount of time required to inform large numbers of airmen and soldiers of severe weather and dangerous meteorological situations including tornadoes, flooding, and thunderstorms with lightning. Due to the increased involvement of weather personnel with the 1st Cavalry Division's G2, damage to personnel and equipment has been dramatically reduced. Millions of dollars worth of equipment and dozens of lives have been saved due to enhanced meteorological technology and the close working relationship between the 1st Cavalry Division and the 3d Weather Squadron.

The satellite receiver is another important piece of equipment that the 3d Weather Squadron takes to the field. It gives a forecaster the ability to receive satellite imagery. It also shows the forecasters a near-perfect picture of the weather across the globe. Given 1st Cavalry's worldwide mission, the WETMs must be able to support the Cavalry wherever and whenever they need it. Consequently, the teams must forecast for numerous areas at the same time. The satellite receivers give us the ability to provide such forecasts in a timely manner--even under austere field conditions.

Another tactical resource that the weather squadron can exploit is its access to the Secure Internet Protocol Router Network (SIPRNET) provided through the TROJAN Special Purpose Integrated Remote Intelligence Terminal (SPIRIT). TROJAN SPIRIT provides a more direct link to all field sites on the network, thus the teams can communicate with other weather sites around the world. The two main weather-related sites on the SIPRNET are the Air Force Global Weather Center and the Fleet Numerical Meteorology and Oceanographic Center. These two sites allow the teams to intercept most of the weather data needed to create regional tactical forecasts.

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Airman First Class Eric Andrews takes an observation with the TMQ-34 Tactical Meteorological Sensor.

Since the TROJAN SPIRIT is a "first-in" piece of equipment for contingencies, the only equipment needed by weather personnel for first-in operations is the weather-observing equipment and two laptops (one for connection to the TROJAN SPIRIT and one for connection to the tactical LAN (TACLAN) for communication with 1st Cavalry Division units). The TROJAN SPIRIT's global reach allows weather personnel to inform the 1st Cavalry Division of current meteorological conditions around the world.

The next step in modernization is a planned upgrade to the Block II IMETS that will allow the WETMs to establish their own "homepage" while tactically deployed. This communications breakthrough will allow other units on the TACLAN to access the weather unit's computers and to retrieve current weather satellite pictures, weather effects charts, local forecasts, and any other weather-related information that is required by combat commanders.

Custom Weather

The 1st Cavalry Division has requested custom-tailored weather data to support its day-to-day operations. Based on the information provided, the WETM provides climatological information, light data, and daily forecasts for locations specified by the commander (see Figure 2). These daily forecasts are available through the installation LAN and are E-mailed to numerous sections throughout the 1st Cavalry Division. Due to increased demand, the daily forecast is now available to everyone on post via a shared E-mail folder.

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Figure 2. Sample Weather Effects Chart.

The 3d Weather Squadron recently established a homepage on the Internet from which the local Fort Hood forecast can be obtained. The homepage also reports climatological, solar, and lunar data for areas of interest to the various units at Fort Hood. The uniform resource locator (URL) for our unit's homepage is http://150.114.103.44/fort_hood/ws/wthr.htm.

Please feel free to check out our site on the Internet. Your helpful comments about the page are always welcome.

Unfavorable weather conditions on the battlefield can create a combat commander's worst nightmare. Marked technological improvements and good teamwork are increasingly taking the guesswork out of the weather's impact on Army operations. While there are still many "unknowns" in ground combat, the 3d Weather Squadron has transformed the weather forecast into a "known quantity"--information reported to and understood by the 1st Cavalry Division well in advance of any operation.

Master Sergeant Milton G. Kooyman, Jr., is currently the Chief, Weather Station Operations, at Cannon AFB, New Mexico. His prior assignments include Grand Forks AFB; Clark AFB in the Philippines; Andersen AFB in Guam; Lajes Field, Azores; and Finthen AAF and Sembach Air Base, Germany. He was the NCOIC of the Developmental Testing and Initial Operational Test and Evaluation for IMETS. He was NCOIC of the III Corps Cadre WETM and SWO for the 6th Combat Aviation Brigade and the 1st Cavalry Division. MSG Kooyman has an associate of science degree in Meteorology from the Community College of the Air Force. Readers can contact him via E-mail at [email protected] and telephonically at (505) 784-2264 and DSN 681-2749.