MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. --
Twelve intelligence, imagery, and meteorology and oceanography Marines will complete the Squadron Intelligence Training and Certification Course aboard Cherry Point today.
The Marines, both officer and enlisted,belong to several units within 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing and 2nd Intelligence Battalion.
The purpose of the four-week course is to provide Marines with the operational information and understanding they need to customize intelligence to the different aspects of each air platform.
“This course is designed to help intelligence fields better integrate with aircrews and pilots,” said Sgt. Christopher Champagne, a METOC forecaster with 2nd Intelligence Bn. “This allows everyone to be more involved with mission planning. Our goal is to provide relevant, accurate products so the Marines have the ability to operate successfully.”
Forecasters often rely on critical information and intelligence to analyze environmental factors and determine how those factors will affect aviation operations. The environment often dictates the role troops play during friendly and enemy mobility, tactics they use and types of weapons they employ.
The Savannah, Ga., native said working with new forecasting capabilities and software during the course has helped him expand his knowledge and given him a new perspective.
“It is beneficial to see the diverse products we can produce as well as different ways we can improve things we currently do,” he said.
As a weather forecaster for his unit, Champagne said he primarily works with troops on the ground. After going through the course, he said it is easier to translate what he has learned so he will be able to support squadrons he may have to work with in the future.
“Some of us have never even seen some of the things we are learning here,” said Champagne.
Additionally, the course bridges the gap for Marines after they complete the ground intelligence-driven initial Marine occupational specialty training they receive.
“They only spend a few days learning about the air side,” said 1st Lt. Thomas M. Wilson, the intelligence officer in charge of Marine Attack Squadron 231. “It’s designed to get the Marines prepared. This shows them what the air side does and what the intelligence requirements are.”
Officers go through the course to help them prepare for follow on courses like the Weapons and Tactics Instructor Course.
“One of the biggest benefits of the course is the potential to gain credibility,” said Wilson. “It’s not very often that we get the chance to integrate with pilots during large scale exercises.”
To help students gain an accurate understanding of working with air assets, they supplemented their classroom instruction by visiting pilots and aircrews aboard the air station to learn about each platform and get hands on with some of the equipment.
“If we can understand how everything works, we can better support them,” Champagne said.
As the intelligence and METOC Marines learn from the course, operational units get a preview of services they may tap into in the future.
“Not only are we learning, the pilots are learning too," said Champagne. "They get to see what all of our capabilities are and what we can do to better support them.”