'Why I serve in the military with the Met Office'
Joe Cotterill, Met Office Mobile Met Unit Operational Meteorologist, shares his experiences of becoming a weather forecaster at MoD Boscombe Down.
1. Why did you join the Met Office Mobile Met Unit?
As a keen surfer and skier, I’m passionate about the environment, and I studied Geography at university which furthered my interest. But I didn’t consider joining the Met Office until I had the opportunity to do work experience at the headquarters in Exeter during my final year of university. I met some fantastic people and saw the culture firsthand, and it opened my eyes to the range of career opportunities available.
I wanted an active and adventurous career that I could be proud of. The Mobile Met Unit (MMU) combines my passion for the environment with my desire to be in the RAF. The MMU is vital to the safety and success of UK military operations, and the role particularly appealed to me due to its flexibility and travel opportunities. It also enabled me to be trained to officer level and take charge at a frontline operational base.
2. What role are you doing now?
I am an Operational Meteorologist based at MoD Boscombe Down. This is a full-time shift role, and my primary responsibilities include producing daily weather forecasts and monitoring current weather conditions at the airfield, as well as providing critical safety information to Air Traffic Control. I also provide meteorological support for military exercises and trials on the ranges at Aberporth and the Hebrides.
3. What are the main challenges of joining the MMU?
Anyone who wants to deploy as a reserve must pass an annual fitness test. But plenty of time is given for training, and you don’t have to pass the fitness test first time. I had concerns about needing to make a long-term commitment to the RAF, but you can take time out when needed. A key benefit of being a reservist is how flexible the role is compared with the rest of the military. The MMU allows you to volunteer for a variety of operations and exercises, and the amount you deploy can vary year-to-year.
4. What has been your overall experience of the MMU so far?
It’s been extremely positive. When I first started, my cohort of new MMU Operational Meteorologists had a weekend at RAF Scampton followed by a conference at Met Office HQ. These provided a great insight into the MMU, and how varied and exciting a career path it could be, with valuable opportunities to socialise and team-build. I’ve stayed in touch with many people, and we supported one another through the training.
5. How have you found the meteorological and military training?
It’s been challenging and rewarding. By joining the MMU directly, I was able to commence the Operational Meteorologist foundation training course straight away and was qualified in my role within a year. Alongside this, I went through the RAF Reserve Officer selection process and became a Sponsored Reserve Officer within two years.
The military training has pushed me out of my comfort zone while providing some fantastic experiences. I’ve learned everything from basic first aid to how to survive a chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear attack, as well as how to fire a rifle. These skills were consolidated in a memorable night exercise when we practiced reacting to enemy contact with blank rounds. This made me feel like a real part of the military for the first time.
I have recently completed my RAF Reserve Officer training. This required a high level of maturity and emotional intelligence, and was intended to develop leadership skills. I’ve taken great pride in wearing officer’s uniform and parading with swords, and have felt like a valued member of the RAF. Going through this training has been the most challenging and rewarding experience of my life so far. It was a great privilege to graduate in front of my family and the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Edward. I’m also looking forward to being sent on my first deployment and gaining experience of operations around the world.
This blog was published in November 2023.