Marine was not your typical weatherman

Photos by Kaiti Sullivan/The Herald
Dave Englert of Ferdinand poses for a portrait on Nov. 27. Englert served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1977-2000.

By ALLEN LAMAN
alaman@dcherald.com

FERDINAND — Everyone laughs at the weather guy.

It must be nice, right? You can be wrong half the time and no one bats an eye.

U.S. Marine Corps veteran Dave Englert doesn’t think that way. During a 23-year career with the Marines, he interpreted forecasts and conditions to inform the elite military outfit’s operations across the globe.

The local TV news weatherman gets a pass. For Englert, a mistake could spell real danger.

“As a weather guy, if you’re wrong, it could result in a loss of life,” he said. “The three key elements in military operations are weather, enemy [and] terrain. Weather is listed first for a reason. Because it’s the one thing you have absolutely no control over.”

We can, however, control how we use it.

Englert, 60, explained that many military catastrophes have hinged on the weather. On the flip side, some of the nation’s greatest triumphs, like the storming of the beaches at Normandy, were made possible by recognizing and taking advantage of meteorological conditions.

From working with commanders to teaching the next generation of military meteorologists, Englert’s career accomplishments are extensive. He started his time in the service as an observer who charted temperatures, cloud coverage, wind directions and so on. By the end, he was reporting the impact weather could have on weapons and tactics.

“What I had, had almost nothing to do with what the TV weather guy does,” said Englert, who lives near Ferdinand. “I mean, yeah, I had to forecast and it does come out to a basic forecast like that. But that was only the starting point of what I did.”

Dave Englert of Ferdinand holds a going-away plaque gifted to him by the Marines at MWSG-27.

In the fall of 1976, the Jasper native and three other Jasper High School seniors decided to take the plunge and join the USMC. After graduation — and 10 days after marrying his wife, Karen (Snyder) — Englert was shot off to bootcamp at Parris Island, South Carolina.

The decision was a natural one. He was brought up on films like John Wayne’s “Sands of Iwo Jima,” and his father, oldest brother and uncle all had experience in the Marine Corps.

“It was a call to adventure,” Englert said of his decision to join. “I think that’s what it really was. Just the sense of adventure. I’ve always had kind of a wanderlust.”

He wasn’t really interested in the weather before joining the Marines. But he was fascinated by science. He was born with good mathematics skills and was fortunate to have good teachers in high school that prepared him well for his military testing.

In those exams, he scored high enough to enter the elite Marine Corps meteorology field. After starting as a basic weather observer, he made his way up the ranks to sergeant and became a weather forecaster and analyst, during which he took successive tours of duty to Arizona and Iwakuni, Japan.

In 1982, he was selected to serve as an instructor in the joint department of defense meteorological and oceanographic courses, and during this time, he was promoted to the rank of staff sergeant and served as the senior marine instructor in both the weather observer school and the weather forecaster and analyst course.

“In the military, being a weather guy allows you to become a force multiplier,” Englert said of the meteorology field’s importance. If the American weather guy is better than the enemy’s weather guy — and most of the time, they are better, because training is in-depth in the states — then they can impart to a military commander what impact the weather will have on his personnel and the enemy’s personnel, Englert explained.

Four years after starting his teaching stint, he transferred to the Marine Corps Air Station New River in North Carolina, where he served as a weather forecaster and meteorological consultant and was deployed repeatedly to the Arctic Circle near the then-Soviet border. Amid heavy competition in his field, he was promoted to the rank of warrant officer in 1989 — becoming the only warrant officer selected that year from the meteorological community.

Dave Englert of Ferdinand holds his Meritorious Service Medal.

After completing the warrant officer basic course, Englert transferred to a base in Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, serving as the officer in charge of the air station’s weather section, mobile meteorological facilities and more.

He was deployed the following year to a naval base in Saudi Arabia, where he established suitable airfields for the Marine Corps during Desert Shield and Desert Storm. In 1992, he was assigned to Marine Wing Support Group 27 in Cherry Point, North Carolina, where he was frequently deployed to Europe, Panama, Haiti, and other joint service operations. During one of those operations, he was assigned to duty as the joint meteorological and oceanographic officer — a position never before held by a Marine.

He graduated from a weapons and tactics instructor course in 1995, and the same year, he joined the joint task headquarters at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina as a captain. In 1998, he was assigned to the newly created staff meteorology officer position at the II Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Lejeune.

During his final year of service, Englert served as the officer in charge of Marine Corps Air Bases East as a weather services officer responsible for more than 200 marines and an estimated $270 million of equipment.
“I’ve gotta be honest with you, the Marine Corps ruined weather for me,” he said with a smile. “Because now I can’t step outside without looking around and assessing the situation.”

His awards and decorations include the meritorious service medal, the Navy and Marine Commendation medal with gold star, and many, many more.

After leaving the service, Englert said it “took about a decade of counseling to get back to a happy place.” Though he was never in what we think of as traditional combat situations, he retired with scars.

Some of the memories that hurt most came from when he found himself in Central America as he contributed to counter-drug operations. There, he said narco-terrorists would use kids to “prove their point” if they believed a family was cooperating with Americans or the local police.

“That’s when I was introduced to how evil human beings can be toward each other,” Englert recalled. “I’ll just put it simply. It really hits you when you see children being used in evil ways. All Marines are softies when it comes to children. Whether they’re our children or children in foreign lands, you just don’t want to see kids getting hurt.”

In retirement, Englert also found the local Marine Corps League, which he said fosters a sense of camaraderie that is rare. It helped fill the gap that was missing from his old life, and he hasn’t looked back since joining. He felt welcome instantly, and before he knew it, he had a new group of best friends.

“If I had to give a veteran one piece of advice, it would be get involved in something,” Englert said. “Anything. Be a part of something.”

Englert lives with Karen near Ferdinand. The couple has three adult children: Scott of Jasper, Michael of Avon, and Mitchell of Jasper.




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