Special Reconnaissance Airmen are meteorologists with advanced tactical training to operate in hostile or denied territory. They gather and interpret weather data and provide intelligence from deployed locations to support and enable operational goals.
Special Reconnaissance Airmen are special operators with advanced meteorological and oceanographic skill sets. They are Air Force Special Tactics members assigned to the 24th Special Operations Wing, 320th Special Tactics Squadron, and 321st Special Tactics Squadron – all units under Air Force Special Operations Command.
Operating in all climates, day or night, special reconnaissance Airmen maintain the highest standards of physical fitness and proficiency in the use of light weapons.
Special Reconnaissance Airmen are among the most highly trained personnel in the U.S. military. They maintain the same weather weapon system qualifications as all Air Force weathermen in addition to advanced special tactics skills. Their 61 weeks of training and unique mission skills earn them the right to wear the gray beret.
Special Reconnaissance operators can establish weather networks in austere combat locations, giving battlefield commanders real-time ground truth weather information that may impact deployment, movement and engagement decisions.
SR Airmen are Air Force meteorologists with unique training to operate in hostile or denied territory. They gather, assess, interpret environmental data and forecast operational impacts from forward deployed locations, working primarily with Air Force and Army Special Operations Forces. They collect critical weather, ocean, river, snow and terrain data, assist mission planning, generate accurate mission-tailored target and route forecasts in support of global special operations and train joint force members and coalition partners to take and communicate limited weather observations.
Additionally, SR Airmen conduct environmental special reconnaissance, collect upper air data, organize, establish and maintain weather data reporting networks, determine host nation meteorological capabilities and train foreign national forces. Every Special Operations Forces mission is planned using the analyses and coordination of special reconnaissance Airmen.
The U.S. Army Weather Service originated in 1917 to provide the American Expeditionary Forces with "all the meteorological information needed; and to undertake special investigations in military meteorology and related problems". They first took part in World War I combat operations in France in 1918.
During World War II, specially trained weather observers, sometimes referred to as guerrilla weathermen, infiltrated behind enemy lines to provide weather intelligence in support of air strikes, airlifts and airdrops. In 1947, the Weather Service transferred to the new Air Force with the provision to continue providing meteorological services to the Army. During the Vietnam War, special warfare or commando weathermen provided forward observations and established weather networks in Cambodia and Laos.
In every conflict since Vietnam, special operations weathermen were with initial entry forces leading the way, undertaking the most dangerous missions behind enemy lines, conducting austere weather operations, and taking observations critical to the success of follow-on forces.
On May 5, 2008, the Air Force approved the establishment of a new Air Force Specialty Code for Special Operations Weather, formally recognizing their commitment to deploy into restricted environments by air, land or sea to conduct weather operations, observe and analyze all environmental data.
However, in an era of great power competition, the need to look critically at the entire U.S. Air Force Special Operations Command formation drove Headquarters Air Force and AFSOC to broaden the skillset of Special Tactics teams. On April 30, 2019, SOWT became Special Reconnaissance expanding the capacity and lethality of Air Force Special Tactics.
Special Reconnaissance Airmen conduct the same technical training as all Air Force weathermen.