USS RONALD REAGAN, At Sea (NNS) -- The aerographer's mates (AG) aboard the Navy's newest nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), cut a celebratory cake in honor of the 80th anniversary of their rate, July 1.
Navy directive CL99, dated Dec. 23, 1923, created a formal aerographer's rating, which took effect July 1, 1924. Eighty years later, they're still forecasting weather, observing atmospheric conditions and ensuring all Sailors around the world are prepared for the elements waiting outside.
"The AG rating has stood the test of time," said Senior Chief Aerographer's Mate (SW/AW) Gregory Vestal, meteorology and oceanography division leading chief petty officer. "There are not that many rates that are older."
There are quite a few misconceptions about the role AGs play in today's Navy, but the truth is, they are vital to the operational success of nearly all facets of the Navy.
"We're not weather.com," said Aerographer's Mate lst Class Eric Wendell, meteorology and oceanography division's leading petty officer. "We monitor the weather's impact on naval equipment, be it on radar or sonar systems. We do oceanography, as well."
According to Wendell, monitoring the environmental or atmospheric impacts might be one of the most important aspects of the rate.
"Environmental impacts encompass everything ... how far the weapons can "see," how much fuel an aircraft is going to burn as it is flying due to winds. Everything that has to do with the environment, either the atmosphere or the ocean, we make predictions on," Wendell said.
According to Wendell, AGs around the globe evaluate everything from the impact waves may have on Landing Craft Air Cushions (LCACs) to the affect atmospheric conditions will have on ordnance aimed at enemy targets.
In many ways, the success of the Navy is directly tied to the ability of AGs to correctly forecast. According to Vestal, today, AGs are very successful in their ability to make accurate predictions.
"We are running in the 85 to 90 percent accuracy (range) when it comes to forecasting weather. We were at about 60 percent when I came in (21 years ago)," said Vestal.
Like many fields, the AG rating has evolved significantly over the past 80 years. Vestal stated that, because of technology, many of the charts and graphs, which are vital to the day-to-day operations of the rate, are now much easier to access and decipher.
"The way we used to do business as opposed to the way we do it now is night and day," Vestal said.
As an example, he stated it used to take six hours to produce a Surface Weather Chart, which tracks the regional highs, lows, precipitation, winds, surf, etc., but now the same chart can be accessed in one minute.
"There are many other charts we use that we never used to have access to," added Vestal.
Technology has changed many of the AG's procedures over the years, but the same concept of ensuring safety of flight and navigation has remained steady.
As the Navy heads further into the 21st century and embraces the Fleet Readiness Plan, the ability to deploy up to seven aircraft carrier strike groups in a moment's notice, by participating in the Summer Pulse '04 exercise, the need for AGs will continue to be a top priority.
For more information about Summer Pulse '04, visit the CFFC Web site at www.cffc.navy.mil/summerpulse04.htm or visit the Summer Pulse '04 Navy NewsStand site at www.news.navy.mil/local/pulse04.
For related news, visit the USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/cvn76.