NOAA 2001-R805
Contact: Jeanne Kouhestani


The Commerce Department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced the graduation today of nine men and four women ensigns from the NOAA Commissioned Corps Basic Officer Training Class. The NOAA Commissioned Corps is the nation's seventh uniformed service. It is the 100th class to graduate since formal training classes were established under NOAA's predecessor commissioned service in 1960.

Before formal classroom training was instituted under what was then called the commissioned service of the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey, new officers had to learn to "sink or swim" on ships without any prior preparation. Today's graduation is the culmination of three months of intense training at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, N.Y. The officers will soon begin their first assignments aboard NOAA research ships.

"These new members of the NOAA Corps represent the best and brightest young scientists and engineers who are just beginning their professional careers," said Scott Gudes, acting NOAA administrator and deputy undersecretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere. "They are following in the tradition of those who have served before them since Thomas Jefferson established the Coast Survey, the first federal science agency, in 1807. The NOAA Corps traces its roots to that point in history, and continues to play a significant role in conducting surveys for the nation's nautical charts."

The NOAA Corps is the smallest uniformed service among the nation's four military services, Coast Guard and Public Health Service. NOAA Corps officers manage and operate the agency's fleet of 15 ships and 13 aircraft used to gather data and conduct research in fulfillment of NOAA's environmental science mission. Officers also apply their technical, managerial and operational skills to shoreside positions within NOAA program offices.

"The NOAA Corps may be a small service, but it's extremely effective in helping NOAA carry out its various missions, from nautical charting, to fisheries and coastal research, to oceanographic research and global climate change studies. Officers not only operate our ships and aircraft but serve in land-based offices throughout the country. We even have an officer at the South Pole and another in the Australian outback taking atmospheric measurements. NOAA Corps officers serve as managers at the nation's marine sanctuaries, and we have fisheries biologists, space weather forecasters and oceanographers, just to name a few career tracks," said Rear Admiral Evelyn J. Fields, director of the NOAA Corps and Office of Marine and Aviation Operations.

"We only recruit people who are very motivated and highly qualified. We're very pleased that the members of this graduating class have chosen to serve NOAA and the Department of Commerce, and look forward to working with them as they contribute to the success of NOAA's programs," Fields said.

New NOAA Corps recruits – who must have degrees in science, engineering or mathematics – are sent to the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy to learn ship management, bridge operations, radar plotting, navigation, firefighting, service protocol, and other skills needed before they begin tours aboard NOAA vessels as junior officers. Classroom lectures, lab activities and demonstrations are combined with hands-on experience aboard the Academy-owned ship, Kings Pointer, which is a sister ship to three NOAA-owned vessels.

Each officer will work with a senior officer on the bridge and begin specialized training in hydrographic surveys, fishery research and trawling, or oceanic and atmospheric research once assigned to a vessel for the first two-year tour.

There are currently 232 officers in the Corps, including the new recruits.

The graduates are:

Ensign Chadwick Brown
Santa Rosa, California
Ensign Micah Miller
Seattle, Washinton
Ensign Chad Cary
Juneau, Alaska
Ens. Jennifer Pralgo Coconut Creek, Florida
Ensign Sean Cimilluca Delray Beach, Florida Ensign Shannon Ristau Portland, Oregon
Ensign Nicole Colasacco Ironwood, Michigan Ensign Daniel Simon Reading, Pennsylvania
Ensign Jeff Kelley
Katy, Texas
Ensign Steve Snow Bellingham, Washington
Ensign Nickie Lambert Traverse City, Michigan Ensign Sean Suk
Manchester, New Hampshire

For photos and brief biographies of the graduates, visit our Web site at:

Information about the NOAA Commissioned Corps can be found at: