This article will focus on Culinary specialties (which may just be the most thankless job in the military) and Weather Services specialties. Why are these jobs so important in the military, and how can they benefit a service member after separation? In some instances, you will be surprised.
From winter clothing not being brought with troops invading Russia to Navies being defeated due to the wind to hailstorms bringing early finishes to battles, accurate weather observations and forecasts can make or break an operation’s success.
Did you know that D-Day, The Battle of Normandy, happened on 5 June 1944? Well, the invasion was originally scheduled for that day, but because of weather observations and the forecast for that day, the invasion was postponed by 24 hours. Did you also know that the Atomic bomb that was dropped on Nagasaki Japan on August 8th 1945 was actually meant to be dropped on the primary target for that day, which was the city of Kokura? As it happened, the observed weather at Kokura that morning prevented the mission there, and thus Nagasaki’s fate was sealed.
Today’s military operations are so much more complex than most of my examples above due to technology and advances in tactics, techniques, and procedures. Aviation now plays a more important role than at any time before, but those aircraft can’t provide the required support in some situations of inclement weather. Operational planning and coordinating logistical support for major operations is a huge undertaking, and knowing how the elements will be makes risks easier to mitigate or reduce. The basis for any operational considerations are the weather and the terrain.
Training can last anywhere from 19 weeks to 8 or more months, depending on the specialty. Also, some meteorological specialties offer apprenticeship programs, which can last up to two years. There is also a great deal of on the job training that is required for new specialists to get really proficient.
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Meteorological specialists perform a variety of tasks, such as launching and tracking weather balloons (to determine wind speed and direction), operating and interpreting output from sophisticated instruments (such as barometers, thermometers, and hygrometers), interpreting satellite and thermal imagery to determine patterns useful in creating a forecast. They also identify types of clouds, cloud height, and cloud cover percentage, all of which are used in official weather briefings for aviators. Meteorological specialists also plot weather information on maps and charts and create forecasts based off of all of the data they collect.
Qualities such as effective communications, working with formulas and charts, and interest in gathering and organizing information are all helpful for these jobs. After the military, the training and certifications received, combined with demonstrated performance, would make folks in these specialties very attractive to news organizations, NOAA, and the National weather Service.
Bonus fun fact: Artillery units have their own weather observers. Things like wind speed, wind direction, and temperature can all have a great effect on an artillery round flying through the air. Their observers determine all of those variables so they can be taken into account by the Fire Direction Center when they are computing firing solutions.
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An Army travels on its stomach, the United States Military included. Whether in a tent during field operations, in a dining facility on base or ship, or in the “Chief’s Mess”, meal time is the best part of the day for many. A chance to sit and relax is always welcome, but to be given balanced meals at the same time makes it even better. Military cooks, regardless of setting, are usually the first members of a unit up and working, and often the last to secure for the day. If the dining facility opens at 0600, the cooks have to be there a couple of hours earlier in order to be ready to serve.
Length of schooling is about 9 weeks but can vary based on the specific specialty being trained. Certification programs and apprenticeships can be available as well.
Duties of a cook are not unlike what one would find in a restaurant setting. There are bakers, there are pastry makers, and there are short order cooks. There are personal military Chef’s (usually serving the General Officer ranks), store room workers, and there is actually a full culinary staff that travels on Air Force 1 when the President flies.
One of the biggest differences between restaurants and dining facilities is the sheer number of customers. Most food has to be prepared in bulk in large vat type “pots”. Frying is usually done on a flat top grill, and there are banks of ovens for baking and broiling. Conversely, just like in restaurants, cleanliness standards are high, food items have to be continuously ordered and then stored properly, and the conditions can be grueling at times: Hot kitchens, long hours, often little praise.
Qualities that could help one excel at this job are math skills, patience, and teamwork. Math skills are important because many recipes in dining facilities are for very large servings. If a cook staff know in advance that they should expect a smaller or larger number of meals to be prepared, they have to convert the recipes for the expected number of diners. Patience and team work are essential because every member of a kitchen staff has their own duties that must be completed simultaneously. As is the case with most military specialties, culinary services veterans can generally find work easily after the service. There are many opportunities available for someone with skill and experience. Catering companies, hotels and casinos, and regular restaurants are always in search of talent.
Matt Hutchason joined the Marine Corps in 1988. He held various positions, including Artillery Surveyor, Artillery Fire Direction Controlman, and recruiter. After reaching the rank of Staff Sergeant, he transferred to the Army in 1998 to attend Warrant Officer Candidates Course. He retired in 2009 as a CW3 Blackhawk pilot. He currently lives in Madison, Alabama with his wife and children and works as a Defense Contractor. Click here to contact Matt with questions or comments.