YOKOSUKA, Japan (NNS) -- U.S. 7th Fleet weather specialists, called aerographer's mates (AG), are providing critical support to 7th 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. 7th 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."
The 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 7th Fleet Area of Responsibility. U.S. 7th Fleet AGs 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 7th Fleet AGs are closely involved in preplanning and executing bilateral exercises. U.S. 7th Fleet AGs are involved in exercises such as Ulchi Freedom Guardian, Key Resolve, Talisman Saber and Foal Eagle. Before each exercise, AGs map out the weather forecasts and provide dates for which the exercises can take place. During exercises AGs participate in scenario briefings, weather tracking and oceanographic data management, ensuring that every thing is planned and executed properly during real time events.
U.S. 7th Fleet AGs 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. 7th 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 preventive 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, AGs provided preemptive warnings to ships within areas that could be affected in an effort to remove them before the disaster struck. The AGs 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 AGs were instrumental in providing updated reports on the new sea state of the effected area, therefore initiating the relief efforts.
The AGs used the experience gained by Operation Tomodachi and used it in the relief efforts for Typhoon Haiyan. The AGs redirected ships out of the area Nov. 8, 2013 before Haiyan made landfall in the Philippines. Following the typhoon, the AGs 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"
U.S. 7th 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.
For more news from Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet, visit www.navy.mil/local/c7f/.