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Document created: 1 December 06
Air & Space Power Journal - Winter 2006
THE PUBLICATION OF Air Force Doctrine Document (AFDD) 2-9.1, Weather Operations, 3 May 2006, marks the first appearance of a document of this type that examines this particular subject. Joint Publication 3-59, Joint Doctrine, Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures for Meteorological and Oceanographic Operations, 23 March 1999, the only official doctrine for military weather operations available to this point, quite frankly is far too long in the tooth to be of much use. Badly in need of an update, it remains in joint coordination for revision, and the fourth edition of US Joint Forces Command’s Joint Meteorology and Oceanography (METOC) Handbook, 1 April 2002, an excellent reference manual for military meteorologists at all levels, is an unofficial publication.
The Air Force Doctrine Center, therefore, issued AFDD 2-9.1 to address weather operations in the context of service doctrine. In the overall scheme of things, it does a good job of generically presenting the function of weather forces in peacetime and combat, their organization, and, in a very general sense, their education and training.
Obviously the author of this document carefully avoids dealing too specifically with organizational issues, given recent efforts to redefine the roles and missions of weather units at all echelons of command and the frequent changes in organization and employment that occur over time. Weather forces have reengineered over the last several years (starting roughly in 1997), producing a sea change not only in their organization but also in the performance of weather-support missions at the various levels of war (strategic, operational, and tactical). The training of these forces from beginning to end has undergone a complete overhaul as well. Rather than weather observers/specialists and forecasters/technicians, we now have weather journeymen and craftsmen.
As for the doctrine document itself, it concisely explains the organization and training of these forces and the way they fit into the joint picture. The first chapter neatly details the purpose of weather forces: to provide accurate and timely weather information and effects on operations for war fighters and other consumers of that data in a consistent, relevant fashion.
As a description of the collection, refinement, and delivery of weather information to various users, the second chapter examines the process that forms the basis of environmental prediction. Weather personnel then tailor these forecasts to specific users for their particular needs, culminating in what the doctrine refers to as integration—basically the employment and/or exploitation of the information by the user.
Chapter 3 delves into more specifics about the organization of weather forces, both from the service and joint perspective. It offers in-depth descriptions of where, how, and why weather forces should be included and/or integrated into Air Force components (including a welcome introductory discussion on integrating weather forces into a war-fighting headquarters), air and space expeditionary task forces, air and space operations centers, joint and multinational operations, special operations, and US Army operations. The chapter provides a short summary of some of the larger, fixed operational units/facilities as well. The list includes some of the “centers of excellence” in the Air Force’s weather hierarchy, such as the Air Force Weather Agency at Offutt AFB, Nebraska, and operational weather squadrons—sources of regional expertise in support of the combatant commands.
Although chapter 4 does not address the training sequence of weather personnel, AFDD 2-9.1 does close with a brief discussion of some of the training venues to which both nonweather and dedicated weather personnel should be exposed: on-the-job experiences, classrooms, laboratories, exercises, and war games, to name a few. The document emphasizes the fact that weather personnel require a wide variety of training environments and that, depending on the needs of the supported customer, certain areas may require more attention than others. For example, a weather-support person in special operations will need greater training in and exposure to field skills and scientific meteorology than will his or her counterpart working in an air and space operations center.
My only (minor) criticism of the document is that it never refers to one key piece of very common (current) terminology: that of the usually base- or wing-level/Army division or brigade-level combat weather team. The base‑/post-level weather-support discussion on page 17 describes the team’s function very well but for some reason never uses the term.
In total, the doctrine document appears to do a fine job not only of describing what the weather function does for the war fighter but also of explaining the process of accomplishing that mission—both the how and the why. Most likely its generic qualities will enable the document to stand on its own for a significant period of time without being unduly affected by fairly common and oftentimes radical changes in force structure. We in the Air Force have needed AFDD 2-9.1 for a long time, and we finally have a description of the Air Force’s weather function, the reason for its existence, and the ways it benefits the war fighter.
To Learn More . . .
Air Force Doctrine Center. https://www.doctrine.af.mil/Main.asp.
Air Force Doctrine Document 2-9.1. Weather Operations, 3 May 2006. https://www.doctrine.af.mil/afdcprivateweb/AFDD_Page_HTML/Doctrine_Docs/afdd2-9-1.pdf.
Joint Publication 3-59. Joint Doctrine, Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures for Meteorological and Oceanographic Operations, 23 March 1999. http://www.dtic.mil/doctrine/jel/new_pubs/jp3_59.pdf.
US Joint Forces Command. Joint Meteorology and Oceanography (METOC) Handbook. 4th ed., 1 April 2002. http://www.forscom.army.mil/weathr/Publications/JointMETOCHandbook.pdf.
The conclusions and opinions expressed in this document are those of the author cultivated in the freedom of expression, academic environment of Air University. They do not reflect the official position of the U.S. Government, Department of Defense, the United States Air Force or the Air University
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