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Meet LCDR Holly Jablonski
I’m Lieutenant Commander Holly Jablonski and I’m the commanding officer of the NOAA Ship Nancy Foster.
About Holly’s Job
I’m a member of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Commissioned Officer Corps. It is a uniformed service. We’re not an armed force, but we are commissioned officers, similar to the Public Health Service.
My assignment right here on the Nancy Foster, as commanding officer I’m ultimately responsible for, first and foremost, the safety of the personnel and the ship. So that’s always highest priority. I’m also ultimately responsible for the success of our missions and just the general operations of the vessel. Most of what I focus on is big picture, and then, fortunately, I have an amazing crew. They’re skilled, they’re responsible, they all pitch in to ensure Nancy’s success and a lot of my work is completed through delegation to them. So they’re critical in the success of the ship.
Lots of Locations
As a Corps officer, like I said, we rotate assignments every two to three years. So throughout your career, some officers transfer and relocate extensively, from coast to coast or up in Alaska or Hawaii. I’ve been up and down the East Coast, primarily. When I’ve been on ships, I’ve been mostly on the eastern seaboard, but I’ve also been down to the Caribbean. I’ve augmented on a couple of ships that have put me in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, and on the west in the Pacific a little bit, and then the Bering Sea. My experience there is not as extensive, but mostly East Coast, eastern seaboard.
To become a NOAA Corps officer, most officers will have a bachelor’s degree, at least a bachelor’s, in engineering, math, or some type of sciences pertaining to NOAA’s mission. So your physical sciences, your marine biology, that type of thing. When you dig down into the actual policy of our requirements, you have to have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree that was awarded from an institution that’s been accredited by, or with accreditation, recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. So basically, a United States accredited college. And then, technically, the degree does not have to say, “math, science, engineering,” but you have to have completed at least 48 semester hours of coursework in engineering, math, or sciences pertaining to NOAA’s mission, including college-level calculus and physics.
The NOAA Corps pay scale is identical to the military pay scale, so anyone can go online and look up a military pay, it's based on rank, time in grade, time in service. In general, we do have a base pay and then we have some tax-free allowances that depending on what assignment you’re in and your skills and where you’re located, that’ll vary. So the general estimate that we give people who are looking for entry level, first entering the Corps as an ensign is around $40,000 a year.