I was born/grew up in: I was born in Kingston, Ontario, but grew up in South Western Ontario, around Sarnia and Windsor Ontario.
I now live in: Oromocto, New Brunswick.
I completed my training/education at: I graduated from the University of Windsor, with a Bachelor’s of Science in Biology. I also graduated from Niagara College’s Geomatics program. Formal meteorological training took place at the Canadian Armed Forces School of Meteorology in Winnipeg.
What I do at work
My work involves the gathering, analyzing and sharing of weather-based intelligence. This involves reporting on weather and supporting artillery through upper air soundings. This is done through hourly weather observations, collection of weather data, and by launching weather balloons.
Hourly weather observation is simply detailed observations of ongoing weather throughout the day. This includes precipitation types, amounts, cloud types and cloud cover, etc. This aspect of the job means we have to keep an ongoing watch on the weather and to keep an eye on weather systems moving into the observing region.
The larger part of the job is the gathering of weather intelligence. We do this through the use of weather forecasting tools, weather prediction software, and various international government sites. We use the information we collect to advise command staff of weather systems and how those weather systems may impact their planned missions, flight routes, or other available assets. This involves a fair amount of computer work. It also requires an understanding the weather forecasting tools and software, and remote sensing using satellite imagery and radar. Reporting on these weather effects, and advising command staff also requires being comfortable with public speaking.
Although my job title is Tactical Weather Specialist, I also advice on Earth Systems impacts, from volcanoes, and earthquakes to potential tidal waves. For some tasks, I even report on space weather events.
While most of the work is done individually, sometimes it is done in a team environment. But depending on where the weather office is located, it can also be very isolated (e.g., working shifts alone). This job is a good mix of both engaging office work, and fieldwork depending on the career path chosen. Experience with the French language is beneficial while working in a military environment.
My career path is
I can honestly say this is not where I expected to end up in my career! I graduated high school, and went to university for biology intending to become a veterinarian. However, after completing my degree, taking courses in earth sciences, as well as geomatics and geographic information systems, I ended following advice from family members and applying to the armed forces as a meteorological technician.
While a university degree is not required for this career, the extra learning does help with the meteorological course at the Canadian Armed Forces School of Meteorology. In fact, many tactical weather specialists have university degrees in a science fields.
I am motivated by
I enjoy that my work allows me to work in both a field environment and an office environment. As well, tactical weather specialists, while working mostly from the background, are involved in general operations making sure of the safety of both civilians and military personnel. This includes such things as accurate mission planning, to timely reporting of natural disasters, and the direct assistance we give for search and rescue operations.
This career gives you many opportunities. These can be in terms of a career advancement or in terms of traveling to locations not often visited by people; locations such as CFS Alert on the northern end of Ellesmere Island, to more common locations, like Europe and Hawaii. Then there is the job security, full benefits, and government pension.
How I affect people’s lives
Weather has an impact on everything. This is particularly important in a military environment, where much of my work is used for planning purposes. Either planning for military operations, or just for general flight safety. As a tactical weather specialist, I am involved in the operation planning of missions (e.g., advising command staff on how weather might affect their assets during any giving mission). Weather reports are also important for pilots as weather systems, such as severe storms, icing, or other weather phenomena can affect flight safety.
Besides the military aspects, we are often the first point of contact for global environmental disasters that require a rapid disaster response team. This includes monitoring phenomena such as hurricanes and typhoons, to reporting on earthquakes, tidal waves and volcanic eruptions.
Outside of work I
I enjoy many outdoor activities, including hiking, kayaking, and camping.
Both volunteer work, sports and physical activity is of course recommended for any military personnel. I am a member of both my unit’s curling team and softball team.
My advice to others
I would say, get a science degree, even though it’s not required. There is still a fair amount of technical and meteorological theory to understand for this career. Become comfortable with public speaking (at least 80% of this career is public speaking). Finally, getting an early start on physical training or adopting an active lifestyle will go a long way towards making basic training and the other field/military training courses much easier. Apart from the more formal, class room style meteorology course, all applicants will have to undertake the CAF basic training program, as well as further training including Soldier Qualification course, and Navy Environment Training Program.