NBC News Explores Secret World of Military Weathermen

By Brian Flood 

11A group of specialists deploy with Navy SEALs and Army Special Forces, gathering environmental data and often enter major missions first to determine if the task should even take place.

The commando forecasters are one of the newest elements of the U.S. Special Operations, but they are also weathermen. Specifically, special operations weather technicians, known as SOWT or Grey Berets.

“Could there be a cooler, healthier-sounding profession than commando forecaster? It’s as if there were a profession called triathlete computer engineer,” NBC News senior investigative reporter Tony Dokoupil asks TVNewser.

12This special group has never been featured in a major newspaper, book, or film. But over the past year, Dokoupil and multimedia producer John Brecher received exclusive access to the clandestine weathermen. The NBC News team has turned the report into a “long form” project, a first for the organization.

“Well, it’s sort of funny that this is a digital project, because the story is an example of the limits of technology. It’s a story about the persistent mysteries of something as basic as the air around us,” Dokoupil said. “Not only does the weather still confound us, but our machines—wonderful though they are—are still too dumb to be trusted when it matters most.”

Dokoupil and Brecher interview special operators and military forecasters, including active members, retirees and Pentagon officers.

“The story points to our limits, on the one hand, and it points to our potential, on the other. I love that,” says Dokoupil. “I love that when it comes to weather reporting, people can still beat the machines.”

The long-form feature is live on NBCnews.com, where it can be read in its entirety.