SOWT Historical Information - Knowledge Bomb Arsenal

Just signed in today - Greetings, Y'all ~

I was SOWT off and on from the mid 1980s through the mid 2000s - Active, Guard and Reserve

I inserted as a cross-trainee SSgt and extracted as a SMSgt - Qualified as a Master Parachutist and Military Freefall Parachutist - Did 2 Combat Tours as a SOWT with US Army Special Forces (JUST CAUSE with 2/7 SFG & DESERT STORM with 1/3 SFG) - And was the unofficial Historian for our guys for many years

I have expert historical knowledge of SOWT and all associated predecessors from WWII to the mid 2000s. I have met in person or spoken with several of our WWII personnel when they were still alive, and have personally met nearly all of our SOWT personnel who operated in Laos.

I'd be very happy to share our interesting and unique historical information with anyone here who is interested - I'm absolutely certain you'll be amazed at some of the things that very few even know about

If anyone has historical questions - Feel free to post them here on this thread - I'll try to check it at least once a week

For those of you in the pipeline:

Train Hard - Your "Big Brothers" are watching with pride!

RESPECT TO ALL
JR
 
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Thanks for providing this resource! I recall reading that Operation Eagle Claw prompted a review of weather forecasting ability, which led to a growth in the combat weather field and establishing a separate AFSC. Is that generally an accurate account and is there more to the story?
 

Yukon

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Sufficiently accurate although a SOW AFSC shred didn't even exist in 1980 and the approval of the SOW AFSC didn't happen until May 2008. But the review got the ball rolling.

Part of the politics is weather career field remained under the Air Weather Service while Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Service (ARRS) and TAC's special operations merged to form 23 AF (MAC) effective 10 May 1983 which eventually became AFSOC.
 
There is a TON more to the story, professional_47...

SOWT was a Special Duty assignment and supposedly only to be served for 3-4 years - That's the justification Air Weather Service used for NOT providing specialized formal training for SOWT members

Reality was - Guys were in the job for the long haul, and most hated having to leave it

Much more to follow...
 

Yukon

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Reality was - Guys were in the job for the long haul, and most hated having to leave it---yep we had one SOWT cross train into Pararescue ca. 1980.
 
Sufficiently accurate although a SOW AFSC shred didn't even exist in 1980 and the approval of the SOW AFSC didn't happen until May 2008. But the review got the ball rolling.

Part of the politics is weather career field remained under the Air Weather Service while Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Service (ARRS) and TAC's special operations merged to form 23 AF (MAC) effective 10 May 1983 which eventually became AFSOC.
Thanks Yukon, based on that information it sounds like after the two services merged guys were able to stay in the job longer.

There is a TON more to the story, professional_47...

SOWT was a Special Duty assignment and supposedly only to be served for 3-4 years - That's the justification Air Weather Service used for NOT providing specialized formal training for SOWT members

Reality was - Guys were in the job for the long haul, and most hated having to leave it

Much more to follow...
Very interesting, I wonder where that disparity between the guys in the job and the Air Weather Service came from. Looking forward to learning more.
 
For Yukon:

Numerous guys over the years transitioned from SOWT to PJ and CCT - I've only ever seen one go the other way

For professional_47:

In addition to loving the job, part of the reason SOWTs stayed in the job for a long time because it was tough to get regular weather guys to volunteer. This was actually detrimental for promotion, as SOWT guys got tested for promotion on base weather station stuff, and were usually (with some exceptions) "behind the power curve" on promotion rates. So, by serving in a shortage position, they were both helping AWS and hurting themselves. Pretty messed up situation, honestly.

The combination of being "behind the power curve" for promotions and being badass barrel chested freedom fighters who wanted to jump out of airplanes and do special operations missions is - IN MY OPINION - what led to what you call the "disparity" - Which is the conventional weather troops looking down on us, as opposed to being proud of us.

Bottom line - Again MY OPINION - Is the conventional weather troops were type B personality individuals who were flat out intimidated by SOWTs - For the most part. We did have some non-jumping people who appreciated and respected us, but honestly that really wasn't the norm - At least not in MY experience.

But I was a highly aggressive individual back then, so I recognize the problems I saw may have been mostly a personal issue.
 

Yukon

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It was impossible prior to May 2008 to cross train out of an AFSC directly into a SOWT duty position. There was no basic 5-digit specialty code specific to the SOWT duty position to do so. One would have to (prior to May 2008) cross train into weather, get the basic 3-skill level AFSC and hope to be picked for such duty assignment after getting 5-skill level upgrade training completed.

If such happened prior to 2008 it was a long shot.
 
You are correct administratively - But everything is waiverable, and it frequently WAS waivered in order to get guys into the positions

In the mid 1980s through early 1990s, we had several individuals who cross-trained into weather after having pre-coordinated their transition to a parachutist position following graduation from tech school - That was the reality of the time

They didn't retrain to be conventional weather personnel - They retrained specifically for SOWT

It wasn't HOPE that got them there - It was the weather assignments Chief in the mid 1980s through early 1990s when all this was going on:

CMSgt Pete Morris - Who himself was a former SOWT with extended service in Laos, encouraged cross-trainees to contact him directly and did everything he could to get those guys in the SOWT slots - Especially when the manning authorizations went up

And YES, we had several others join SOWT after washing out of PJ or CCT training - Just like CCT and TACP traditionally had PJ washouts

All of them went on to do great things in the SOWT field

BTW - I'm not going to keep splitting hairs with the term SOWT - We all know use of the term is all effed up (thanks again to the conventional weather people who were in the mix) - I'm just gonna use SOWT all the time to describe the career field, unless more detailed clarification is needed.
 
This article was posted on https://www.afspecwar.com

NBC news of all places...
https://www.nbcnews.com/specials/weathermen

Some highlights:

Insufficient or faulty ground data is a major reason why forecasts curdle within a week, and go totally rancid after 10 days. Even a same-day satellite forecast is a spaghetti plot of best guesses and city-sized generalities. That won’t do in war, where the weather is never neutral.
...
Before they deploy, all SOWTs get a coat of battle paint at Hurlburt Field, home of the Air Force’s advanced combat training school. It’s a sprawling gym, pool and classroom complex, and on a recent visit the facility felt like a stroll through the pages of a spy novel.
....

“A lot of guys read a lot of books,” said Sawtelle, walking down the aisles. He pointed out a particular favorite in one locker: “The Art of War,” an ancient Chinese military treatise attributed to Sun Tzu.

“Know the weather,” Sun Tzu advised around 320 B.C. “Your victory will then be total.”

Inside the main doors of the Special Tactics Training Complex there is a wall of framed photos, almost all of them fallen combat controllers. In the auditorium two combat controllers recently addressed visitors (and potential recruits) from the Ultimate Fighting circuit. “I know how it sounds,” one of the men said, as he neared the end of a bloody anecdote about his time in Afghanistan, “but just before a firefight, I start to smile.”

This kind of machismo may be necessary, given the work of special operations, but it also means that soldiers sometimes don’t respect the weather. A couple of months after the auditorium speeches a team of Special Tactics airmen huddled in tents on Alaska’s Manatuska Glacier. They were on a training mission, an effort to find a body in one of the area’s seemingly bottomless crevasses.

They were supposed to have SOWTs with them, testing the ice and snowpack, gauging the depth and swiftness of a nearby river. If the team found a body — an actual dummy hidden in the terrain — the SOWTs would forecast for an incoming helicopter. But the SOWTs were called away, sent on a real-world mission at the last moment, according to the Air Force.

The combat controllers and medics didn’t mind. Some used a smartphone app, which failed to predict an afternoon of high winds and rain that might have flipped tents if they had not been angled correctly by a local guide. Others planned to ford the river — until another guide warned them of a dangerous drop in the middle.
But World War II was the weatherman’s golden hour. It was the first war with the widespread use of air power, and the United States prepared by training more than 30,000 conventional weather personnel to help guide America’s new flyboys. On D-Day an Allied forecaster first delayed the invasion of France, then sent Commander Eisenhower’s “great crusade” through a clear patch the Germans didn’t see and never expected.

That invasion included the earliest known airborne weathermen, forerunners to today’s SOWTs. One of them stepped out into the clouds over Normandy, popping silk with the 82nd Airborne Division. Another followed in a glider. Both were stitched by gunfire before taking an observation.
The modern SOWT mission was reborn in 1963.

The Johnson administration began to prepare for a secret war in Laos, where the North Vietnamese were cutting tracks through the jungle, creating a supply route known as the Ho Chi Minh Trail. The Pentagon wanted to stop them with bombs, but the flight conditions were dicey. When tropical air hits a mountain range it cools rapidly, forming thunderstorms that could knock back a jet in already difficult skies.

Back at Hurlburt Field, two brigadier generals had an idea for managing this problem. They created an experimental five-man team, a squad of weathermen who could operate like Army Special Forces. They called it the Commando Combat Weather Team and tapped an Air Force captain named Keith Grimes to run it, according to a copy of Grimes’ 1974 “oral autobiography,” prepared by the Air Force (and still partially redacted by the CIA).

Grimes held three degrees, spoke four languages and went on to become one of the most important commandos in Air Force history. He became the first true SOWT, and implemented the broader vision of warriors first, weathermen second.
In 1970 Grimes again demonstrated the value of SOWTs. He was asked to help execute Operation Kingpin, a lionhearted mission to rescue American POWs from Son Tay, a prison camp near Hanoi. The plan called for six helicopters and two dozen Green Berets and involved an issue of front-page national concern.

To prepare, Grimes called the Air Force’s climatology department and, based on the historical averages, selected October or November as the ideal time for the raid. He wanted the conditions just so: less than five knots of surface wind, an east moon, no more than 45 degrees above the horizon, scattered cirrus clouds, nothing to silhouette the helos.

After a summer of mock-ups, the team flew to Vietnam to wait on the right conditions. But a typhoon formed off the coast and by all appearances it was going to make landfall on November 21, the very day Grimes was targeting for the launch.

From a classified bunker on Monkey Mountain, an American base about 800 miles south of the target, he searched for another option. He reviewed satellite photos and surface observations from his commandos in Laos and China. He saw a cold trough coming down out of the north, a low-pressure system that might be strong enough to delay the typhoon and create a “tongue” of clear weather over Son Tay.

“What’s your conclusion?” the general said.

“If we don’t do it tonight, we’ll never do it,” Grimes said.

They did it.

Six helicopters flew the nape of the Earth, and the night was perfect. The force got in and got out in 26 minutes flat.

The mission still failed.

The POWs had all been moved, the camp deserted. But that was a failure of intelligence, not weather, and Grimes won the Legion of Merit for his work.
Through the 1970s and beyond, the SOWT career field still had a major problem: There was no career field, nothing distinct from the traditional Air Force meteorologists. The Commando Combat Weather Team was a revolving door of volunteers, many with no training beyond jump school. One Grey Beret would be a top-tier special operator. The next wouldn’t even know how to load his gun.

It was almost impossible to get the military’s elite commandos to allow a desk-bred man with a thermometer to take the place of a battle-hardened colleague with a gun. By the time Grimes died in a plane crash in 1977, the field seemed to die with him, setting the stage for the lowest moment in the history of special operations.
The Grey Berets Rise Again

Before special operations weathermen emerged as modern war heroes, they spent decades on the fringes of military life. By the early 1980s, the commando weather team that had been formed for secret work in Vietnam and Laos had, in the words of one former officer, been “allowed to atrophy to the point of being almost nonfunctional.” That’s when people started dying.

In 1982, five Army paratroopers were dragged to their deaths in unforeseen high winds near Fort Irwin, California. A year later, four Navy SEALs dropped into unexpectedly rough surf and died during the invasion of Grenada. In these cases and others, the SOWTs were uncalled or unheeded.

The first Gulf War made matters worse. One SOWT built the largest clandestine weather net since Keith Grimes hiked into Laos. But there was another SOWT on the ground, a drinker. To consummate the invasion he held “a sexual orgy in the middle of the desert,” Wayne Golding, the SOWTs’ commanding officer, later told an Air Force historian.

Golding wasn’t smiling. A major reason why U.S. special operators — from the SEALs to the Rangers to the Green Berets — were turning down SOWTs at the time was the fear that the weather guy would somehow compromise a mission. They didn’t trust the SOWTs’ training, nor their professionalism, and this libidinous forecaster had just given them proof that those suspicions were justified.

It got even worse. In the early 1990s, General Merrill McPeak, the new Air Force chief of staff, decided to deflate the Air Weather Service, a byzantine, bloated organization that grew out of World War II. He closed wings, shuttered squadrons and reassigned hundreds of forecasters. A “Right Stuff”-style fighter jock from the Vietnam era, McPeak thought the Air Weather Service was, as he suggested in an email to NBC, as outdated as the Polish cavalry. He nearly succeeded in making its forecasters just as ceremonial.

“It killed our career field,” said Rip Coleman, who at the time was the director of meteorology for Air Force Special Operations.

Rip Coleman, former member of the special operations weather team, in Fort Walton Beach, Florida.
Coleman and others succeeded in getting a new unit created: the 10th Combat Weather Squadron at Hurlburt Field. Brady Armistead was already there, a proud young forecaster who, like Grimes before him, was a human test case.

He was among the first weathermen assigned to an experimental Special Tactics Team. Such teams are now the official future of Air Force Special Operations. In the beginning, however, Armistead’s arrival was met with bewilderment.
 

Yukon

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You are correct administratively - But everything is waiverable, and it frequently WAS waivered in order to get guys into the positions.
Not everything, to the best of my knowledge requirement to have award of a weather 3-level AFSC wasn't waived. Direct assignment to the weather parachutist duty positions was limited to those holding a weather specialty 3-skill, 5-skill, or 7-skill level AFSC. Those holding other AFSCs had to cross training into the weather specialty and get through all the AETC provided courses of initial entry required for award of weather specialty 3-skill level AFSC before gaining eligibility and qualification consideration for such duty assignment and the vacancy needed to exist for the 3-level weather parachutist at one or more of the units. The capability requirement was for a competent weather observer/forecaster more so than a qualified parachutist.

Questioning the success and exploits of individuals is not the orientation of my comments. However being classified out of current AFSC into a new AFSC requires the existence of either a Special Duty AFSC, Reporting Identifying AFSC, or an AFSC having a specialty description with minimum specialty qualification requirements for award of the specialty's 3-skill, 5-skill, 7-skill and 9-skill level AFSCs. This didn't exist for the weather parachutist duty position assignments or for SOW until the SOWT AFSC was approved 2008/9.

Most importantly, the lack of a 1-skill level AFSC made it difficult to assure or guarantee a direct duty assignment to a weather parachutist duty assignment on completing all the AETC provided courses of initial entry required for award of the weather specialty 3-skill level AFSC. There also had to be a vacant 3-skill level position at those units having weather parachutists duty AFSC (Jump prefix) authorized on the unit manning documents. Although Cross Trainees retain current AFSC while going through the training pipeline required for award of a new AFSC in a new career field, a training pipeline specific to weather parachutist duties didn't exist and going through Army Basic Airborne Course wasn't an AETC funded required course for award of the weather specialty's 3-level AFSC.

The 1-skill level AFSC identifies those who possess the potential for successful performance and full qualification in a ladder of the designated career field. Simply this is the student going through AETC provided courses of initial entry required for award of 3-skill level in a specific specialty. The establishing of the SOWT AFSC 2008/9 eliminated most above administrative frustrations and problems of getting people into these duty positions. It unfortunately brought with it a bit more formalized screening and selecting screening matched to CCT screening and selecting that didn't previously occur.

The weather parachutist duty assignment positions (conventional and special operations/warfare prior to 2008/9) being discussed lacked any sort of specialty (occupation) code identifier or specialty description in the classification structure until the ‘C’ Advanced Battlefield Airman suffix was added to the basic five element weather AFSC (1WXXXC) in 2005. Even then no actual duty position description existed that identified qualification requirements specific to these unit duty assignments. The only qualification requirement prior to 2008/9 was the weather special experience identifier (SEI) authorized for 1WXXX simply identifying “Special Operations Weather Team, requires 6 months’ experience and supervisor’s recommendation”. These situations and circumstances left almost no qualification and eligibility for duty assignment requirements to be waived until 2008/9.
 

Yukon

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But World War II was the weatherman’s golden hour.
Certainly correct and accurate. Unfortunately I'm still searching for the exact number of weather forecasters (I have that info somewhere) were removed from the force structure when WWII ended, but it was more than half of them. When the Korean War started the Air Force didn't have much tactical weather forecasting and observing capability left. There was no availability of frontline or behind enemy line weather forecasting and observing capability existence on the fringes from 1947 to 1963 as what existed during WWII disappeared when that conflict ended.

From United States Air Force Operations in the Korean Conflict: 25 June-1 November 1950, page 113:

Col Thomas S. Moorman, Jr , commanding the 2143d Air Weather Wing, nevertheless thought that the weather service possessed the techniques and knowledge to do a fairly good job in Korea His main detriment was forecaster personnel of lower quality than those in service from 1944 to 1945. The Air Weather Service had an influx of officers who had chosen meteorology as an excuse to remain on active duty and whose main interest did not lie in the field, many possessed insufficient scientific backgrounds and inadequate training.

At this time weather support attached to Army units on the front lines didn't exist during the Korean conflict and he was addressing weather forecasters attached to the wing or air base units or at the Army corps headquarters.

Meet Special Reconnaissance, a new career field in Air Force Special Operations

The Air Force has debated the future of its battlefield airmen for some time. SOWTs were seen as unnecessary with the advent of weather forecasting technology. Earlier in 2018, the service released a memorandum describing the current challenges and explored possible improvement opportunities to become more effective. “Bottom line, a fully leveraged Air Force ground maneuver element eliminates the need to ask another service to do what the Air Force should do ourselves,” the memo states. This conclusion indicates a desire for more independence. The document was signed by the Air Force’s Vice Chief of Staff, Gen. Stephen Wilson.
 
I am aspiring to be a Special Reconnaissance airmen and for an assignment here in SW prep I have been tasked with collecting informantion on the activity of SOWT operators between the years of 1995 and 1999. So that I may then explain the warrior ethos behind these great men’s actions and provide a small case study about them. If you could please help me that would be greatly appreciated, also thank you so much for paving the way for this career field to be what it is today. Not a day goes by that I don’t realize I stand on the shoulders of giants.
 

Yukon

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Certainly some events to collect during that period. The period 1995 thru 1999 wasn't exactly a period of high operations tempo as Desert Storm operations were winding down into no fly zone monitoring operations in Nothern and Southen Iraq. It was 9/11 that contributed to operations picking up again. However a few operations did happen that I don't exactily have direct knowledge of in providing the detail you would need for your endeavour. Hopefully somebody will stumble accross your post that does.
 
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Hey Yukon!
Do you know of anything significant that happened in the SOWT career field between 2005 and 2009? Doing research for a project and any information would be appreciated!
 

Yukon

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I was 9 years retired in 2005. All I have specific is the AFECDs for those years. The SOWTs have a complicated and poorly archived weather career field and capability utilization history prior to 2009 as Combat Weather Teams and Special Operations Weather Teams shared a shred and those on both teams that were parachutists were authorized wear of the same beret and beret crest. When the SWOT occupation specialty 1W0X2 was authorized effective 31 August 2009 it opened opportunity to offer a GTEP enlistment contract to non-prior service personnel to enlist in the AFSC, otherwise all were enlisting to be weather and hope to get the assignment opportunity after obtaining weather AFSC 5-level.

There were a few missions accomplished by SOWT during this period but I do not have any official after action mission reports to pass on.

As skills and tasks proficiency requirements prior to 2009 didn't differ much between the weather parachutists assigned to the CWTs (more of them) and the SOWTs and female weather parachutists (officer and enlisted) existed on the CWTS NLT 2000 a perspective suggestion can be made that it was attempt to keep SOWT a male only duty assignment as after 1993 there was extreme political-social pressure of no difference in qualification requirements, then why are women not being assigned to the SOWTs. Neither CWTs or SOWTS had an approved occupation-specific fitness assessment for obtaining mission ready qual or for award and retention of AFSC as the training prior to 2009 didn't award an AFSC or a skill level.

Essentially the only course specific requirement other than completing the Army's Basic Airborne Couse that I have found prior to 1996 is:

E3AQP1W031 000—Basic Weather Combat/Field Skills—PDS
Code 613—Hurlburt Fld/1 wk—Oct 96
Provides training training to Air Force students in field operations.
Subjects include camouflage, assemble/maintain personal field gear, perform perimeter defense and night movement. Students are also taught how to take tactical weather observations.
Prerequisites: Successful completion of courses E3AQR1W031 004,
Basic Weather, E3AQR1W031 002, Consolidated Weather, and
E3AQR1W031 003, Intermediate Weather.
Quota Control: 2 AF/DOP.


Also I often alienated those SOW visiting this site during the 1997/8 thru 2009 period (the forum threads no longer exist here) explaining both CWT and SOWT mission is being replaced by technology and that Air Force removed CWT as an official tactical, doctrinal, and capability term a decade or so ago and SOWT was reengineered into SR are pretty good indicators that I wasn't talking out of my butt just to upset them.

From October 2009 AFECD:
3.5.1. For entry into this specialty:
3.5.1.1. Ability to speak English distinctly.
3.5.1.2. Successful completion of the physical ability and stamina test (PAST). (Effective 31 August 2009 as an entry classification mandatory requirement. Also no Indoc course just a 10-day course at Lackland called Special Operations Weather Selection Course that was integrated into the CCT Combat Control Preparatory Course which was also a 10 day course at the time. Weather had no Combat Diver requirement and CCT made it a 5-level requirement.)

3.5.1.3. See attachment 4 for additional entry requirements.
3.5.2. For entry, award, and retention of AFSCs 1W012/32/52/72/92:
3.5.2.1. Physical qualification for parachute duty IAW AFI 48-123, Medical Examinations and Standards.
3.5.2.2. Visual acuity correctable to 20/20.
3.5.2.3. Normal color vision and depth perception as defined in AFI 48-123.
3.5.3. For entry, award and retention of AFSCs 1W032/52/72/92: (Effective 31 August 2009 as an entry classification mandatory requirement, note absence of any mission ready or occupation specific fitness requirement for award and retention of AFSC)
3.5.3.1. Qualification to operate government vehicles according to AFI 24-301, Vehicle Operations.
3.5.3.2. Qualification, currency, and proficiency as a static line parachutist.
3.5.3.3. Qualification to bear firearms according to AFIs 31-207, Arming and Use of Force By Air Force Personnel; 36-2226, Combat Arms Training and Maintenance (CATM); AFSOCI 36-2204, Special Tactics Operator Training; and AFSOCI 36-2206, Command Job Qualification Standard (CJQS) For Weather Personnel.
3.5.3.4. Specialty requires routine access to Secret material or similar environment. Award and retention of AFSCs requires completion of a current National Agency Check, Local Agency Checks and Credit (NACLC) according to AFI 31-501, Personnel Program Management.
 
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