CNSWC Public Affairs / PO2 Richard A. Miller
From the jagged mountains of Afghanistan, to the blistering deserts of Iraq, to the thick, humid jungles of Southeast Asia; Naval Special Warfare operates in any climate. As weather conditions change, missions adapt with them. A small community of weather professionals dedicates their time to ensuring operators are ready for anything nature can throw at them: the Naval Oceanography Special Warfare Center.
“We provide the SEAL teams with the information to use changing environmental conditions to our advantage or to the enemy’s disadvantage, by advising what time we go, what gear we use, what weapons we use, and what route we take,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Bryan Stone, a forecaster assigned to Special Reconnaissance Team ONE.
NOSWC, an operationally subordinate command to Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command, provides up-to-date weather forecasts from their headquarters in Coronado, California, as well as from personnel deployed with teams around the world.
“We’re within [Naval Special Warfare Command] itself, with detachments within the Special Reconnaissance Teams, Special Boat Teams, and SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team ONE,” said Lt. Michelle Watts, NOSWC’s operations and training officer.
NOSWC plays a crucial role in the planning of NSW operations.
“The adversaries use weather to their advantage,” said Watts. “METOC is becoming more important in the execution of these missions.”
Naval Special Warfare operators deploy in locations where enemies are more familiar with the terrain and weather conditions, making it even more important for NOSWC to provide accurate information and an advantage over adversaries.
“We have to think about what the upper level winds are doing, what the currents are doing, what the seas are doing, and what kind of terrain the beach is,” said Stone. “Are they going to get on the beach and sink right away? Is it muddy terrain? Are there coral reefs a mile out? We have to think about the angles of approach. You don’t have to think about littoral oceanography on a carrier. NOSWC is far more detailed and you have to really think about how every little aspect will be impacted.”
Constantly-changing weather conditions mean NSW personnel have to modify their plans on the fly.
“Cloud coverage, thunderstorms, and dust storms have large impacts,” said Watts. “Our personnel interpret the conditions and recommend shifts to the schedule as needed.”
NOSWC personnel work long, irregular hours to provide up-to-date and thorough forecasts.
“There’s a lot of work when you’re deployed,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Melissa Ortiz. “It’s a heavy workload. There’s a lot to be done and a lot to focus on.”
Hours of preparation go into METOC briefs and deployed personnel have to get information out with a concise, easy-to-understand delivery.
“It takes hours to put these briefs together, but we talk for maybe 30 seconds,” said Stone. “If you’re putting together a complete top-to-bottom brief, it can take up to four hours at a minimum. You have to put it into a simple format.”
METOC personnel go through a lengthy training process to qualify as a Naval Special Warfare Forecaster.
“It takes several months for us to get qualified,” said Stone. “You don’t know where you’re going to go, so you have to be good at weather regimes for the entire globe. You can be deployed to Europe, Africa, the Middle East, or the Pacific. You have to be ready for entirely different weather patterns, different seasons, and different hemispheres.”
Stone found an interest in working with NSW early in his Navy career.
“I wanted to see what this side of the Navy was like,” said Stone. “It’s so glorified in the movies, media, gossip, and I wanted to see what it was really like. It sounded really cool and I was curious, so I screened while I was in ‘C’ school.”
Stone met NSW METOC personnel during school, who helped open the door for him to participate in the program.
“When I was in ‘C’ school, the NSW METOC personnel came to recruit,” said Stone. “They didn’t go into too many details about what exactly we’d be doing and the high tempo we’d experience while with these NSW commands, but everyone had nothing but positive things to say about this community which resonated with me.”
NSW’s unique culture creates a challenging, yet fulfilling work environment.
“Everything is rapid pace,” said Stone. “You’d better be able to learn on the fly and ask the right questions. This was my first station as a petty officer 1st class so it was doubly tough to learn operationally and administratively. I really love the ‘big boy rules’ that exist here. Everyone is treated as adults and trusted to make the correct choices with little supervision. It’s very different from the fleet and I thrive in this type of environment. I’m heading back to the fleet on shore duty and will miss it here.”
The METOC community plans to develop new capabilities to continue providing the most accurate forecasts.
“Right now the focus is on unmanned underwater vehicles,” said Watts. “We want to receive the same level of training for underwater capabilities that they’ve built with ScanEagle Unmanned Aircraft Systems.”
As technology evolves, so will NOSWC’s responsibilities. Adversaries continue to find new ways to use their environment to their advantage. Rain or shine, NOSWC works tirelessly to ensure NSW keeps an advantage in all conditions.