CJTF-HOA's Meteorological and Oceanographic Department Improving Relations in Uganda
A team from Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa's (CJTF-HOA) Meteorological and Oceanographic Department (METOC) deployed to Uganda from September 28 to October 3, 2009 in preparation for the humanitarian exercise Natural Fire at the end of this month.
The team deployed with a meteorological sensor that is scheduled to be set up for the upcoming exercise. In addition to delivering equipment to Uganda, they interacted with many meteorologists.
"We met some extraordinary weather experts and forecasters, as well as the commissioner of the National Meteorological Center in Uganda," said Lieutenant Commander Ricardo Trevino, CJTF-HOA's Meteorological and Oceanographic Department head. "We felt humbled by meeting forecasters that have [been] forecasting in the area for 30 years or more. It was impressive to see how the civilians and Uganda People's Defence Force Air Force personnel work together to provide the best forecast for the entire country."
Communication between CJTF-HOA and Uganda's meteorological departments allows for a sharing of weather data that can be beneficial to both. When CJTF-HOA's METOC begins to receive real-time data from the sensor they delivered, it will allow for a more accurate forecast. With more accurate forecasts, safer flight paths can be charted for coalition aircraft.
"It is important to share meteorological data to get a better sense of how the atmosphere is behaving and [see] how others interpret the data collected," said Trevino. "We want to make sure that the METOC information we gather is accurate, consistent, relevant and timely in order to provide the best forecast for our people and mission planners."
Both Uganda and the United States benefit by sharing meteorological data, said Stephen Magezi, Ugandan Meteorological Department commissioner.
Coalition aircraft will not be the only recipients. CJTF-HOA has a detachment from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 3 assigned to Pader, Uganda building a bridge across a river in Aromo.
"Accurate, consistent, reliable and timely forecasts are essential for the safety and planning of all ground missions," said Trevino. "By establishing a strong network of observational sensors, exchanging data with host nations and establishing collaborations, we can have a better idea of when significant weather events, like floods and droughts, severe thunderstorms, and high winds, will affect our service members."
The Ugandans gave the team tours of three weather facilities -- two in Kampala and one in Entebbe.
"The Ugandans were extremely receptive and happy that we visited and started engaging with them," said Trevino. "They were very excited at the idea of putting a reliable, stand-alone sensor in Kitgum and wanted to get the data as soon as possible."
Currently, 150 of Uganda's 600 sensors work well. Without maintenance, their sensors have deteriorated over the years, said Collins Othira Akena, Uganda Meteorological Department.
"East Africa lacks a true meteorological observational network, as we have in the United States, so reliable data here is harder to come by. Putting all our resources together will alleviate [that] and paint a better picture of the environment," said Trevino.
Sharing weather data with Uganda and other East African nations, said Trevino, provides a more accurate forecast which will support CJTF-HOA's missions and operations.
"They are the experts of their own area, and we can benefit hugely from their knowledge," said Trevino. "I see relations improving in the future as we continue to exchange data and forecasts and work on establishing a continent-wide METOC Sensing Strategy, which ultimately will benefit all of us."