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CHIPS Articles: Aerographer’s Mate: Monitoring the Wind in Ford’s Sails

Aerographer’s Mate: Monitoring the Wind in Ford’s Sails
By Petty Officer 2nd Class Ryan Seelbach, USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) - October 15, 2020
Bergy bit, derecho and grapuel are uncommon words to the average person, but to an Aerographer’s Mate (AG), these words are common.

AG’s are trained in the science of meteorology and physical oceanography. They monitor weather characteristics such as air pressure, temperature and humidity which is distributed to aircraft, ships and shore activities.

Aerographer’s Mate 1st Class Trenton Marshall, from Colorado Springs, Colorado, assigned to USS Gerald R. Ford’s (CVN 78) operations department, explained how his journey to the rating began like so many other Sailors.

“Where I’m from there is a lot of Air Force and Army people and so I chose the Navy to do something different,” said Marshall. “I didn’t really know about the rate at first, but when I went into the military entrance processing station (MEPS) there were five choices presented.” On that day in 2010, as Marshall read all five rating descriptions iin front of him, he knew he wanted to do something interesting but didn’t want to be limited to a rate that works below decks, so he chose AG.

Marshall recalled a story from his first deployment, with USS Peleliu (LHA 5) in 2011 near the Strait of Malacca, where as an airman, he accompanied his leading petty officer (LPO) to the bridge.

“My AG1 received a phone call and we rushed out of the office to the bridge. Once we arrived, everyone was freaking out and we didn’t understand why,” said Marshall. “There was nothing but blue sky and the officer of the deck (OOD) yelled to us and pointed out the window and said, ‘what is that! Is that a tsunami?’, and I started to laugh.”

The bridge watch team was reacting to a common occurrence called a toroidal current, and after he was corrected by his LPO, they both explained what the OOD was seeing.

“There are different densities in different seas because of their origins,” said Marshall. “What they were seeing was similar to white caps on waves, but in a solid line. Between two bodies of water, one will rise and one will sink creating a current just under the surface of the water.”

This is just one example of why ships at sea need these weather experts; and their journey begins with “A-School” at Kessler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Mississippi prior to getting sent to sea.

Marshall explained that before the Enlisted Review Board took place in approximately 2010 through 2011, many AG’s were assigned to sea-going units. He said the reason why a large group of AG’s were let go during this time was simple.

“When the ship is in port, they don’t need AG’s onboard. While pier-side the ships have local weather forecasts, the base will let them know if something is coming or the weather center [will] advise them of inbound weather.”

While many AG’s were taken off ship to fill more billets at weather centers, the only Sailors getting assigned to ships were coming from initial training, but in the absence of any senior leadership in the rating.

“In the last five years or so, we’ve started to venture back out more and realized that we need more experienced AG’s on ships,” said Marshall. “I can count on one hand how many AG2’s and above who are ship’s company. It’s definitely something that I think about. What made my chain of command or detailer say, ‘we want AG1 Marshall to go to this ship.’”

The need for technical experts at sea in the AG rating has returned to the operational mindset that all deployable units need weather professionals to complete any mission.

“I take it as a huge honor and something that they trust me with. I can represent the AG community on board ships to show the rest of the fleet why we need these guys and why we need them at sea.”

For more news from USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), visit https://www.dvidshub.net/unit/CVN78

Aerographer’s Mate 1st Class Trenton Marshall, from Colorado Springs, Colorado, in front of USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) island. Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Ryan Seelbach, USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78)
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