MASTER CORPORAL HOLLY WORTMAN: I’m Master Corporal Holly Wortman from Fredericton, New Brunswick. I’m a Meteorological Technician currently posted at the Joint Meteorological Centre in Gagetown, New Brunswick.
Meteorological Technicians, or Met Techs, provide accurate, mission-specific forecasts on air and sea conditions for the Army, Navy, Air Force and Special Operations Forces. Weather forecasts are a vital part of every mission where forces are deployed. Commanders rely on accurate and timely weather reports to make important decisions in real time.
MASTER CORPORAL HOLLY WORTMAN: We observe the weather, so we take hourly observations of sky conditions, winds, temperatures, and we transmit that out onto the system. The forecasters will use that to write forecasts and produce different forecasting products that the briefers then use to brief the command teams to help them make their decisions. So everything comes full circle: you have your briefers, your observers, your forecasters — you can’t have one without the other, we all need each other, and that’s what makes this trade run.
Met Techs are trained to create and present briefings of current and expected weather conditions that may impact exercises or operations.
MASTER CORPORAL HOLLY WORTMAN: Whether it’s artillery, giving them information about the upper atmosphere so that their rounds land in the right spot; or if it’s a helicopter deciding whether they’re going to fly that day, or where they’re going to fly or what adjustments they have to make for fuel or what they’re packing — weather impacts every aspect of the military.
It’s a trade with varied and dynamic roles. Met Techs work around the clock to collect data and make weather observations to build a forecast. But it’s not just a “weather forecast” — it’s critical mission-specific information.
MASTER CORPORAL HOLLY WORTMAN: Our forecasts are more honed into a specific location or operation. So the public weather will give: “Mainly sun and clouds, winds 10 km/h from the north” — that’s great, but to a helicopter, it’s like: “Where are those clouds? And where are the winds coming from?” We tailor all the work we do specific for these units and these teams.
Since weather conditions can change at a moment’s notice, Met Techs are constantly monitoring conditions and must be ready to adapt in any situation.
MASTER CORPORAL HOLLY WORTMAN: Being right or wrong can make the difference between life or death or a successful operation or exercise. So it’s very important to be right, and be on your toes and keep a sharp eye.
MASTER CORPORAL HOLLY WORTMAN: So I spent 6 months in Alert back in 2014 and it was probably the highlight of my career up until now. There’s nothing like the Arctic, it’s beautiful. We do the weather observations at the airfield in Alert and then one of the forecasters here in Gagetown actually writes the forecast. But you know, sometimes there’s a polar bear crawling around outside and you’re down there all alone — it can be pretty scary but I would jump at the opportunity to go back to the Arctic again.
After qualifying as a Tactical Weather Specialist, Met Techs are posted to a military unit within Canada, where they observe and brief on weather conditions. Using state-of-the-art technologies, Met Techs create precise weather forecasts that better define the battlespace to give a tactical advantage to Canadian commanders and decision-makers.
MASTER CORPORAL HOLLY WORTMAN: Right out of your training, you’re face-to-face with a high-ranking commander or you’re talking to them over the phone. But you quickly become very comfortable. I used to be very shy, now I’m outspoken and confident in who I am, and it’s not just the uniform that does it — it’s the experience and the things you get to do and the people you get to speak to in this trade that help build that confidence.
Met Techs must be effective communicators, self-motivated and lifelong learners. They can expect to be deployed at all stages of their career wherever the Canadian Armed Forces are operating.
MASTER CORPORAL HOLLY WORTMAN: I’ve always been fascinated by weather. And when I found out that this was a trade that I could do in the Canadian Forces, I said “Here’s my chance to try it out, see if I like it.” I felt like this job would have all kinds of opportunities. So why not do something I was interested in — here I am!