The Operations Officer is the chief liaison between the chief scientists and the crew of the Foster. I must understand the needs of the scientific party, help the scientific party understand the services and capabilities of the ship, and work with the ship's crew to plan and execute the cruise. My other responsibilities include creating the schedule and the Plan of the Day for each cruise. I also work with the deck crew to supervise launching the small boats and deploying and retrieving equipment over this side. I'm also the Divemaster for the ship and oversee the dive operations.
What preparation is required for your job?
Completion of four-year degree preferably in science or engineering is required. Then application can be made directly to the NOAA Corps, the smallest uniformed service of the United States with 300 officers. Once selected, candidates undergo 14-17 weeks of training at the Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, New York. This training includes leadership, ship handling, small boat handling, navigation, and safety. After graduation, one becomes a commissioned Ensign in the NOAA Corps and is assigned to a NOAA ship for two - two and half years of ships training as a Junior Officer on a NOAA ship. Once this first sea duty period is completed, NOAA Corps officers alternate three year assignment on shore with 2 year assignments at sea. While on sea duty, Ensigns will go on various cruises lasting from several days to two weeks. After each cruise, the ship is in her home port for one to two weeks.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Helping create and execute the master plan for a cruise and watching all of the elements come together for a successful cruise. Good communication is key. Usually, day four of a cruise is most rewarding because that's often when everyone has become acclimated to the ship and the plan, and things begin to run much more smoothly.
What is the hardest part of your job?
Being away from home so much during sea duty and having to move when I get a new assignment.
What would your advice be to someone who might be thinking of a career like yours?
Find a mission that you can believe in and you can find lots of opportunities to support that mission. NOAA has lots of opportunities to support their mission and lots of excellent people working in support of that mission. It makes for a good day when you find that right opportunity. If you believe in it strongly enough, you can find a way to do it.