U.S. Fleet Forces’ decision to sortie more than 30 ships ahead of Hurricane Florence is a stark reminder of how weather can affect the Navy.
The Navy relies on its aerographer’s mates for accurate forecasts and observations of weather conditions to determine operations and manage fleet readiness.
Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command ordered all Navy ships in the Hampton Roads area to sortie on Sept. 10, ahead of Hurricane Florence.
Aerographer’s mates are trained experts who collect, record and analyze meteorological and oceanographic data. Using this information, they can prepare warnings of severe and hazardous weather and sea conditions. Their observations are used to brief the ship’s leaders on current and predicted environmental conditions and their effect on operations.
“We are important for a lot of things, specifically for situations like this, when there is a hurricane coming,” said Aerographer’s Mate 2nd Class James Henson, from North Little Rock, Arkansas, and assigned to the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77). “We will inform the ship where to go to avoid really bad weather that could potentially cause damage.”
AGs must be aware of changing conditions and be able to predict weather developments to ensure GHWB can continue to operate uninhibited by weather.
AGs make periodic observations using radar imagery and meteorological and oceanographic data to accurately read weather conditions and advise the chain of command.
“Being very observant and knowing what’s going on around us is very important in this rate,” said Aerographer’s Mate Airman Apprentice Dimitri K. Kaponis, from Hamilton, New Jersey.
“We take weather observations every hour, and during flight operations it’s every half hour.”
When AGs detect abnormal conditions, they relay the information as quickly as possible to the chain of command. This allows leadership to make decisions on what course to take based on weather forecasts.
“When flight operations are happening and there are thunderstorms, AGs will find a clearing and help move the ship,” said Henson. “Safety is important to AGs, because our forecasts and observations keep Sailors out of harm’s way.”
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“If a forecast pans out, and I know I moved the ship in the right direction and kept everyone safe, it’s very rewarding.” Henson said. “We do this to keep the mission going.”
Having the ability to be ready for any weather condition gives the Navy an advantage when it comes to operational capabilities at sea, in the air and on land.
“We can give our special forces a tactical advantage when we are going up against our enemies,” Henson said. “If Navy SEALs are performing a raid, our observations help them plan accordingly to get that mission done.”
AGs help the overall mission by impacting ship movement, giving intel for flight operations and even ensuring safe port visits. In short, weather analysis plays an important part in a many of Navy operations.
“It’s rewarding to be able to brief the captain and the navigator, and for them to trust me with the forecast,” Henson said. “The most important aspect of my job is always being alert and always paying attention to what is going on with the weather. I’m always ready for what’s coming and ready to make recommendations that can save lives.”