IN THE CANADIAN FORCES
I’m Master Corporal Glen Slauenwhite from Lower Sackville, Nova Scotia. I’m a Meteorological Technician currently posted to HMCS Athabaskan.
And I’m Sergeant Cory Johnson from Black’s Harbour, New Brunswick. I’m a Meteorological Technician currently posted to CFB Petawawa.
SLAUENWHITE: Meteorology is one of the cornerstones of any military planning. It affects aircraft, it affects personnel on the ground, it affects ships. Any inclement weather can destroy any of those links.
Metrological technicians provide on-the-spot weather information services. We observe local phenomena, we report on it and from that, forecasts and briefings are derived.
If you’re a soldier, an armoured crewman or an infanteer that’s trying to just live through day-to-day life while you’re out in the field, you’re going to want to know if it’s cold, if it’s wet, if it’s really hot. People like me can provide that information.
If you’re at sea, knowing what kind of sea states you’re going to come up against, storms that are out there – I can tell you all about that. Certainly anybody that flies aircraft is going to want to know just what kind of things that they can expect on their route. Everything we do is weather-dependent.
JOHNSON: A Met Tech’s job may sound pretty basic: provide accurate, mission-specific ground, air and sea conditions and forecasts out to our Air Force, Navy and Army commanders.
It’s always been a level of comfort for commanders to be able to talk to a uniformed soldier. Our understanding of operational requirements does kind of give us an upper hand on being able to provide the best, most tailored information for their needs.
SLAUENWHITE: There has to be a certain level of academic achievement to be a Met Tech -- definitely some sort of math or physics. You have to understand movement, energy, dynamics. You have to be able to think in three dimensions.
JOHNSON: Being mobile and deployable is a big thing for us. We go wherever our troops, ships and air crews go, whether it’s the middle of the Atlantic or a forward operating base in Afghanistan.
SLAUENWHITE: We’re on ships, we have people with Air Force CF-18 and helicopter squadrons and we have people throughout Canada doing ballistic meteorology with the artillery. They want to make sure they have the proper upper-air data so they can hit the target they want to hit.
JOHNSON: It’s not just a weather forecast. It’s critical mission-specific information.
For somebody that never wants a dull moment, then Met Tech is definitely the trade for them.
JOHNSON: The coolest part of the job is the diversity. You can go to sea, if you like going to the Army, there is definitely the army tour. It’s just the diversity – all the different people that you meet, all the different places that you get to go and see. You get to work with everybody.
SLAUENWHITE: At the end of the day when I can pull in all this information and distill it down to a very quick forecast, present that to the boss and then actually see it come to fruition when you’re out there. As well as offering those into a myriad of environments such as being at sea, being in the desert, being in the Arctic, there is no job quite like this. It allows you to use those brain skills along with basic military skills to get the job done.
SLAUENWHITE: After basic military training, Meteorological Technicians go to the Canadian Forces School of Meteorology in Winnipeg for about 6 months of trade-specific training. For the first half of the course, the focus is on surface observations, wind speeds and direction, and the operation and maintenance of meteorological equipment. After that, you’ll learn briefing, how to present the information you observe to a user. It’s very, very demanding.
JOHNSON: You have to be a good communicator. You must be able to speak to an audience and be able to keep your train of thought and be able to adapt to changing situations at a moment’s notice.
A lot of it is theory-based. Theory is a huge part of the trade. For example, for the Air Force, helicopters and fixed wing aircraft can pick up icing. You’ve got to understand the theory behind icing and its possible effects. Also, turbulence can become a huge issue. You have to give them information as to where turbulence may be located.
SLAUENWHITE: When you’re done in Winnipeg, you’ll be sent to the Canadian Forces Joint Meteorological Centre in Gagetown, New Brunswick, for on-the-job experience. In Gagetown, technicians are given the opportunity to hone their skills under the supervision of a group of experienced technicians. Additional training includes: driver training on a variety of military vehicles; advanced training to allow Meteorological Technicians to better integrate into an artillery regiment; and technical training to allow technicians to operate an austere Weather Office.
SLAUENWHITE: When you leave Gagetown, you’ll be posted to an Army, Air Force or Navy unit responsible for observing and recording weather conditions and briefing local commanders with the weather information they require.
JOHNSON: Here in Petawawa, I run the upper-air section for the artillery. We go everywhere they go.
We have Met Techs that are posted to the artillery and send up weather balloons and the information that we get from the weather balloons, such as temperature, humidity, wind speed and direction, helps to correct for the atmospheric phenomena that could cause that round to end up not on the intended target. So it is a tool that they use to increase the safety and accuracy of their weapons.
SLAUENWHITE: As your career progresses, there are always continuing courses in weather forecasting, upper-atmosphere observations and mission-specific assignments.
JOHNSON: The opportunities for travel are endless. You get to go to many new places, places that you never would have thought your military career would ever take you. It’s an excellent, excellent opportunity if you want to get out and see the world.
SLAUENWHITE: Yeah, a real big thing for me was excitement and the Canadian Forces offer these opportunities that you can’t find anywhere else. Visiting the world, helping out people, both in small and large scale operations. Really, if you like a life that moves and a career that moves with you, this is the place to be.
IN THE CANADIAN FORCES