CAMP FOSTER, OKINAWA, Japan – --
Military occupational specialties are the foundation of the Marine Corps. Each MOS is a cog, working with and relying on each other to keep the fighting machine that is the United States Marine Corps running. The meteorology and oceanology field is one such MOS.
METOC is the only earth science related job field within the Marine Corps. METOC Marines’ skills are utilized in all aspects of the Marine Corps, from deployment and flights to daily base training.
“Our MOS provides metrological support to aircrews, aircrew services, pilots, and mission related personnel,” said Lance Cpl. Victor Perales, a meteorology and oceanology analyst forecaster with Headquarter and Headquarters Squadron, Marine Corps Air Station Futenma.
Marines who join the METOC field go through an intense schooling to learn all the basics to confidently do their job. A school day is nine-hours long and split into three blocks. The first block is the basics of weather and its elements, the second block is a more in-depth analysist, and the third block is the practical application of everything a student was taught in the first two blocks. When the Marines graduate from the school house they have earned 60 college credits in a span of 9 to 12 months.
“The school house was the most challenging part for me,” said Lance Cpl. Elijah Davis, a METOC analyst forecaster with H&HS, MCAS Futenma. “It was two years of college classes in such a short amount of time. Everything I learned was foreign to me. I had never learned physics or science like they taught. I had to just jump straight in and it was hard for me.”
After their school ends the METOC Marines are continuously learning and expanding their pool of resources. They use technology to help preform their jobs but it can never replace the Marine. Where technology is limited by location, data and upgrades the Marine is able to calculate and analyze weather conditions just by going outside and looking around. Because of this the Marines learn how to proceed when unpredictable weather hits and adjustments to an operation or a flight have to be made.
“The most challenging part of my job is having to stay flexible,” said Cpl. Darien Huggins, a METOC analyst forecaster with H&HS, MCAS Futenma. “Whenever we do a flight brief for a pilot there are certain things that come up, like when the aircraft we originally planned for needs more maintenance so we have to prepare another brief for a different route or take off time and sometimes these briefs have to happen as soon as possible. We have to be able to keep up with the pace and to be able to adjust to their needs.”
Without the METOC Marines the Marine Corps would have to rely on the U.S. Air Force or the U.S. Navy to support all Marine Corps flights, missions, operations, and base weather conditions. This would place a great strain on the other branches as the U.S. Air Force has to support their own personnel and the U.S. Army while the U.S. Navy is trained to be employed on vessels. Without the METOC field as a whole weather conditions such as a rainfall in a grassland where Humvees are routed through can cause hours of delay or gear being ruined or lost due to mud. With METOC the rain would be noted and the route can be changed to evade such an outcome.
“Everyone jokes, ‘my phone can do your job’,” said Perales. “In a sense, they are not wrong. You can look at your phone for a weather forecast but your phone isn’t going to work out in Thailand. It’s not going to work in Korea or in Afghanistan. The simple point is that the Corps needs us. It needs people who can tell there will be turbulence for pilots from just looking at the clouds or that it is going to rain later from looking at past observations. Models on your phone can’t do that because it is a computer and it can’t process all the data like we can. That is why we are so critical for to the Marine Corps.”