News: US Seventh Fleet weather specialists contribute to Pacific humanitarian assistance efforts
Story by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Cody R. Babin, U.S. Seventh Fleet Public Affairs
USS BLUE RIDGE, At Sea - Seventh Fleet weather specialists, called aerographer’s mates (AG), are providing critical support to Seventh Fleet’s MH370 search and rescue operations March and April 2014.
“Our initial mission was to ensure that Seventh Fleet understood the weather conditions that would occur during the search,” said Cmdr. Thomas Moneymaker, U.S. Seventh Fleet oceanographer. “During the operation, we provided search and rescue ships with oceanic models of where the plane could have possibly crashed and debris drifted.”
Aerographer’s mates also provided meteorological support, to include reporting hazardous weather states and cloud cover to the P-3C Orion and P-8A Poseidon squadrons deployed from Command Task Force 72.
The mission of AGs is to collect, record and analyze oceanographic information throughout the Seventh Fleet area of responsibility. Seventh Fleet AG’s are essential to mission readiness because they enable U.S. Navy ships operating in the region to plan for potential weather hazards before every operation.
The 15 Seventh Fleet AG’s are closely involved in pre-planning and executing bilateral exercises. Seventh Fleet AG’s are involved in exercises such as Ulchi Freedom Guardian, Key Resolve, Talisman Saber and Foal Eagle. Before each exercise, AG’s map out the weather forecasts and provide dates for which the exercises can take place. During exercises, AG’s participate in scenario briefings, weather tracking and oceanographic data management, ensuring that every thing is planned and executed properly during real-time events.
Seventh Fleet AG’s provide crucial information that allows ships to navigate the AOR.
“The western Pacific is notorious for tropical storms,” said Senior Chief Aerographer’s Mate Keith J. Chevalier, U.S. Seventh Fleet’s meteorological and oceanographic division leading chief petty officer. “This area of operations has more storms than anywhere in the world.”
AG’s are also responsible for preparing up-to-date weather maps and oceanographic data, issuing weather forecasts and warnings, testing, calibrating and performing minor and preventative maintenance on meteorological instruments including satellite receivers, preparing balloon-carried instruments for flight, evaluating and analyzing data received and operating, programming and maintaining computers and related equipment. Essentially, AG’s provide a plan for all ships before any operation start, and keep all equipment in perfect working condition during every mission to ensure completion.
In instances such as the tsunami that devastated Sendai, Japan, AG’s provided preemptive warnings to ships within areas that could be affected in an effort to remove them before the disaster struck. The AG’s tracked both the initial earthquake and the tsunami. Following the tsunami, Operation Tomodachi began in March 2013. Operation Tomodachi provided vital relief efforts to Japan citizens who were devastated by the tsunami.
The AG’s were instrumental in providing updated reports on the new sea state of the affected area, therefore initiating the relief efforts.
The AG’s used the experience gained by Operation Tomodachi and used it in the relief efforts for Typhoon Haiyan. On Nov. 8, 2013, the AG’s redirected ships out of the area before Haiyan made landfall in the Philippines. Following the typhoon, the AG’s provided all the ships involved in Operation Damayan, the relief effort held in the Philippines, with meteorological support as well as accurate readings of how the sea floor was affected by the storm, said Chevalier.
Chevalier concluded that AG’s play a major role in even normal day-to-day operations in the fleet.
“If, for example, an amphibious ship pulls into Hong Kong, we have to take everything into consideration when we provide weather conditions to the ship. If bad weather is headed into the area, we let the ship know so it can pull out of the port before the storm hits to ensure safe travel of the ship”
Seventh Fleet’s weather specialists continue to contribute to the ongoing efforts of the MH370 search.
For more information, check out the Naval Meteorology and Oceanography newsletter at http://www.public.navy.mil/fltfor/cnmoc.