It's not just semantics...

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Robert Russell
  • AFSOC, A3W
Chances are you're reading this article because you are a member of the Air Force weather community, and as such, you have chosen to participate in our Nation's military weather operations. You have chosen to be part of a noble calling, the profession of arms. Today we remain a nation at war, and each of us are performing duties supporting military operations required for successful accomplishment of the missions assigned to our units and directed by our commanders. Thank you for answering the call, and for all you do.
Air Force Special Operations Command weather technicians and Special Operations Weather Team members are important but minority members of two military communities; Air Force weather and the quiet professionals of United States Special Operations Command. Pride, professionalism and camaraderie are hallmarks of both; yet there are some cultural differences I believe are worth noting.
Many in our weather community perform their daily wartime duties far from the immediate battlefield, and over time it may become difficult to recognize contributions for what they are. In my travels I continue to hear phrases that indicate our weather community might be ready for a reminder of the important roles we have in the conduct of our nation's Global War on Terrorism. I often hear things in the weather community that implies we are in fact different than other members of our military. One example is that we "support the warfighter." The SOF community will remind us that we are all in the profession of arms; therefore, we are the warfighter! Your officer or enlisted oath makes that perfectly clear. If you are a civil servant or a contractor, your tasks are also military in nature.
I have been told, sometimes counseled, that I am a "weatherman" first. I ask you to consider our active duty roles in this manner: we are officers/NCOs first and foremost, operators second, and weathermen third ... now let me explain. We all took an oath of office/enlistment in the profession of arms and that oath applies 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, if you're doing a weather task or not. You're an operator second which means you are a part of the operation/mission of the command you are serving in, be it a weather unit it not. We must be able to anticipate and understand the big picture of the mission and operations our unit and commanders are conducting in order to ensure their successful execution. Last, but not least, we are specially trained in weather. This is the specialty we bring to our assigned missions, however, weather products/information, regardless of how accurate, are of little to no use if not provided at the right time, to the right people, containing information relevant to that mission. Competency as an operator AND weatherman go hand in hand.
Another example I often hear is we "support the operator," same song, second verse. Semantics to some perhaps, but to others, this statement also identifies weather as support, and not operations. Again, our SOF culture points to how our own Air Force defines us, and again I must agree. Our Air Force has support functions which include civil engineering, services, personnelists and others; but not weather. These support functions are each identified by a 3-series Air Force Specialty Code. Weather is an operations function; identified by a 1-series AFSC ... you are an operator, the Air Force has defined that for us and I suggest we proudly embrace that fact.
Using either of these phrases implies we are separate from, rather than included in the very groups we hold in great esteem. It paints a verbal picture that we are, or perceive ourselves to be, separate from rather than included in the ranks of operators and warriors. I know each AFSOC weather warrior takes great pride in being counted as the operators they are, and I would hope all in the weather community adopt this view.
Another example, and my least favorite phrase, is "support the customer." A customer is one who pays for goods or services. In a military weather context, that covers only two groups of people; the American taxpayer, and those on the receiving end of whatever military missions we are conducting ... and both groups deserve our very best. Our customers actually support us in two ways; the American taxpayer provides funding and the enemy provides us many opportunities to execute our missions ... and we should do our level best everyday to ensure we never disappoint them.
In today's resource challenged environment, we make decisions everyday that in some way prioritize our individual or unit actions. In turn, each of these decisions can indeed affect our ability to perform our weather tasks more effectively to defeat our Nation's enemies and improve the conduct of our military operations. Remember, we are all warriors and we cannot judge our value to the operation by our proximity to the battlefield, your action may be the one that determines the outcome of a combat mission you never even knew occurred.