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CJTF-HOA meteorologists weather the storm

By Cpl. Andrew W. Miller | | December 24, 2002

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Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa left Morehead City, N.C. in mid-November for northeast Africa. Their mission is to disrupt and defeat transnational terrorist groups posing an imminent threat to coalition partners in the Horn of Africa region.

For this military operation and others, the weather can most always be a threat, and CJTF-HOA has a crew of five constantly checking the climatology of its area of operation.

"We are the general's weathermen," explained Lt. Cmdr. Robert G. Schnabel, joint meteorology and oceanography center officer. "We gather weather information for the ship locally and for any operations we may be involved in."

Every morning and every night the ship's and CJTF-HOA's commands are briefed in the Joint Operations Center by METOC personnel, informing them of how the environment might affect upcoming plans.

The impact that METOC has on the ship's daily routine is sometimes evident in different ways, such as a recent port call.

"When we arrived in Malta we were one day late," said Schnabel, native of Deer Park, N.Y. "That was METOC, letting the ship's crew know that the seas ahead were too rough and dangerous."

USS Mount Whitney's METOC works on an operational level, meaning that weather crews ashore are doing the footwork. METOC uses computer connectivity throughout the day, looking at satellite imagery and information gathered from the ground units to make the finished product used in briefs.

"Right now our job involves finding out temperatures, finding thunderstorms and forecasting seas from aboard USS Mount Whitney," explained Petty Officer 3rd Class Jeffrey D. Parris, mobile environmental team technician. "Hopefully before all is said and done, we will have a chance to go ashore and do the leg-work in Djibouti."

His job in METOC has been a rewarding occupation, according to Parris, because it keeps Marines and Sailors on the right track and away from foul weather,

"I enjoy this occupation a lot, especially this deployment because I get to work with all of the armed services," said Parris, native of Natick, Mass. "Anyone who enjoys science would like this occupation. Plus, I get a lot of pleasure from knowing I am making a difference."

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