Meteorological Team Aids Operations in Iraq
By Staff Sgt. Mark Bell, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service
BAGHDAD, Iraq, Feb. 17, 2004 A three-soldier meteorological team, or MET, is on call 24 hours a day to provide vital weather data at Task Force 1st Armored Division's forward operating base at Camp Falcon.
When enemies conduct mortar or rocket attacks against coalition forces and Iraqi residents in and around Baghdad, the team's predictions allow howitzer and mortar gun teams to provide deadly accurate counter-fire.
Spc. Kate Waters, a meteorological team crewmember assigned to the 1st Armored Division Artillery Combat Team, prepares a weather balloon to gather data for various field artillery positions around Baghdad, Iraq. Photo by Staff Sgt. Mark Bell, USA
(Click photo for screen-resolution image)
Spc. Takeisha M. Hoy, a field artillery meteorological crewmember, launches a weather balloon carrying a compact weather station called a radio sonde. It slowly travels into the atmosphere, ultimately rising nearly 15,000 feet above the ground.
As the balloon disappears into the darkness with only a small chemical light to track its location, the small motors of the radio directional finder keep the system pointed in the right direction.
Using radio waves, the high-tech tracking system continually gathers and records important weather data as it disappears through the atmosphere, Hoy said.
"During its ascent, the sonde relays the data back to the radio directional finder until the balloon pops," she said. "We are then able to quickly transmit that data to units that need it."
Using tactical radios, the data is sent across Baghdad, giving coalition forces the data they need to accurately shoot their guns if needed.
For the past two and a half years, Hoy and Spc. Kate Waters have been providing weather data for field artillery units in Germany and Iraq.
"It was an unknown MOS and sounded interesting when I joined the Army," Waters said. "I had to make a quick decision and didn't have many options, so I took a chance with this MOS."
Although her work is mostly unseen to the big and small artillery gunners of 1st Armored Division, Waters said her job is just as important as that of the soldiers putting the rounds in the tubes.
"MET provides the guns the ability to adjust to the wind speed and direction, air temperature and pressure," she said.
Together with the use of aiming circles, survey points, and accurate target and gun data, MET is a combat multiplier to the field artillery, said Sgt. 1st Class David Whitaker, 1st Armored Division Artillery Combat Team fire support sergeant.
"It's a device we use to ensure that we send accurate rounds downrange," he said. "Basically, we're going to hit the target when we use MET."
Together with the weight and speed of the projectile, the trajectory of the howitzer, air density and wind speed all affect where a round lands, he said. The smaller the projectile, the more vital MET data becomes.
"Especially with the mortars, it's a lighter projectile, which is definitely more affected by the weather," he said. "(The data is) a 'must-have' for firing live ammunition."
The MET team provides weather data every four hours for use by mortar and artillery personnel across Baghdad, he said.
"The MET team here is really good at what they do," Whitaker said. "I have the utmost confidence in their ability to provide the brigade with accurate weather data."
With the entire division relying on the MET data, both Hoy and Waters said their job is critical to the fight against terrorism.
"We may not be firing the guns, but we are there providing them data to deliver those rounds," said Waters. "Without us, there would be no firing."
(Army Staff Sgt. Mark Bell is assigned to the 372nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment.)