NOAA 99-38
Contact: Jeanne Kouhestani


Fields Is First Woman and First African American to Hold Post

The Senate has confirmed as director of the NOAA Corps Capt. Evelyn Fields, the first woman and the first African American to serve in this position. Since her confirmation, Fields has also been promoted to the rank of rear admiral, upper half. She officially assumed her new responsibilities this week, U.S. Secretary of Commerce William M. Daley said.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commissioned Officers Corps is the nation's seventh uniformed service, and operates under the U.S. Department of Commerce.

President Clinton nominated Fields for the position on Jan. 19. Before her confirmation, Fields served as deputy director of NOAA's National Ocean Service.

"We are extremely pleased that this exceptional, visionary officer will serve at the head of the NOAA Corps," said Secretary Daley. "RAdm. Fields has broken a lot of new ground throughout her career with the Corps, and has a proven track record as a manager and a leader. She was the first African American woman to be commissioned in the NOAA Corps, the first woman to command a federal ship, and the second person to be U.S. Exchange Hydrographer with Canada. Most recently, during the time she's been deputy director of the National Ocean Service, NOAA's nautical charting capabilities have taken a quantum leap forward with the development of raster and vector charts, doubling of chart production, reduction of chart update production time from 47 to just four weeks, improvement in technology with a substantial increase in data acquisition capabilities on board NOAA hydrographic survey ships, and increase in contracting out of survey operations to the private sector."

"RAdm. Fields is an outstanding officer and forward-looking leader, and commands the loyalty and respect of those with whom she works. I have full confidence that under her leadership and direction, the NOAA Corps will continue to serve the agency's
programs and the nation with the highest level of professionalism," said Rear Admiral William L. Stubblefield, who retired as director of the NOAA Corps on March 1.

Fields began her career with NOAA in 1972 as a cartographer at the Atlantic Marine Center in Norfolk, Va., and in 1973 -- when NOAA began recruiting women into its commissioned service -- was the first African American woman to join the NOAA Corps. She is now the most senior woman in the Corps.

During her 26 years as a NOAA Corps officer, Fields has served in a variety of staff and operational billets. She has served on the ships Mt. Mitchell and Peirce as operations officer, and Rainier as executive officer, in deployments including the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean, and Alaskan waters. Most notably, she was the first woman to serve as commanding officer on a NOAA ship, the McArthur, as well as the first woman to command a federal ship for an extended period within the nation's uniformed services. Her sea experience covers hydrographic survey operations, fisheries research and oceanographic research.

In other achievements, Fields was selected to be the second U.S. Exchange Hydrographer with Canada. After the exchange program, she was responsible for reviewing, critiquing, and determining whether the hydrographic survey data submitted by Atlantic Marine Center field units was complete and adequate for final acceptance into the processing system. She was selected for and attended the Armed Forces Staff College, and subsequently worked with all program areas of NOAA as assignment coordinator for the Office of NOAA Corps Operations, providing sound advice to both programs and officers regarding officer assignments. She was selected as a fellow to the U.S. Department of Commerce Science and Technology Fellowship Program, where she obtained policy-making and program management experience at the highest executive and legislative levels. After completing this program, she became administrative officer of the National Geodetic Survey, and then chief of Hydrographic Surveys. She was then named director of the Commissioned Personnel Center.

During her career, Fields has received a variety of commendations for performance of duty, unit awards and letters of appreciation for participation in career day programs, EEO programs, mentor programs, women's programs, and women and minorities recruiting. She was selected Lady of the Year by the Bachelor-Benedict Club of Norfolk, Va., in July 1994. Fields was named one of the top 50 minority women in science and engineering for 1996 by the National Technical Association. She is a member of several professional societies and has served in various offices of those organizations.

The Office of NOAA Corps Operations, composed of civilians and commissioned officers, operates and manages the agency's fleet of research ships and aircraft; officers also support NOAA programs through diverse shoreside positions. The NOAA Corps is the nation's smallest uniformed service. Officers -- all scientists or engineers -- provide NOAA with an important blend of operational, management and technical skills that support the agency's programs at sea, in the air, and ashore.