Iraqi forecasters back in business

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Rebecca R. Garland
  • 484th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
For the first time since 1980, members of Iraq's meteorological organization are back in a Baghdad tower sending weather observations after going through training with Air Force weather forecasters.

Airmen taught the Iraqis how to operate and maintain the new meteorological measuring set that was installed at the airport during the war.

"The previous regime put all their money and focus into rockets, bombs and fighting; not the weather," said Muhamed M. Shafic, organization director general. "Now that they are not in power, hopefully the time can be spent bringing the weather organization up-to-date with better equipment and new training."

The organization's headquarters was destroyed during the war, and all of the documentation for the previous century was lost.

"It's a very sad thing for me to see all this history, this treasure, (lost)," said Shafic, adding that the building was "a beautiful building, so very beautiful, and it's all burned."

The top priority for organization officials is to build a new headquarters building, and the second priority is to get new equipment.

"For 20 years we had no new equipment, but now that the war is over we need to jump, not walk, to catch up to the rest of the world," said Shafic.

Training began a week ago and started with a basic overview of what the equipment does, but the language barriers and different traditions proved to be a slight holdup.

"The equipment is in miles, not kilometers?" asked Salem Al-Sadi, who has worked in the Baghdad area since 1962 as an observer. "That will be difficult."

"All of our equipment is in miles, and it's all automated, so you don't have to touch anything," said Staff Sgt. Julie Moretto, member of the 447th Air Expeditionary Group deployed from the 15th Air Support Operations Squadron at Hunter Army Air Field, Ga.

"No touching is good," said Al-Sadi.

Iraq's weather organization was established in 1923, and is the oldest organization in Baghdad and neighboring areas. The headquarters building contained more than a century's worth of weather data.

"After the war, looters and thieves stole and destroyed 100 percent of the documents," said Shafic. "At least we were able to save some of the documents on disks before the war."

Three years ago, organization officials began entering the weather data into a personal computer, and were able to salvage the data from 1988 through 2002; however, everything else was destroyed.

"We came here with the help of U.S. troops (and) with the responsibility of meteorology to begin work at Baghdad station," said Shafic. "Two of my observers are here to get trained on the equipment, so we can take the first step in continuing our work here."