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NOAA Corps: Supporting the Fleet

ENS Matt O'Leary
NOAA Corps Officer

My name is Ensign Matt O’Leary, and I’m an officer in the NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps, currently assigned to NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer. The NOAA Corps, comprised of just over 300 officers, is the smallest of our nation’s seven uniformed services. We can trace our history back to the founding of the Survey of the Coast in 1807, but we didn’t become a uniformed service until 1917. NOAA Corps officers work throughout all of NOAA’s offices, both onshore and at sea aboard NOAA’s fleet of 19 vessels (and 12 aircraft).

As an officer onboard the NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer, my job is to help navigate the ship and ensure the safety of everyone aboard. Shore-side scientists and mission personnel tell us where they need to go, and my fellow officers and I work to get everyone there safely. While at sea most of the officers stand eight hours of bridge watch per day, during which we are responsible for the safe navigation of the ship. Down time onboard can be enjoyed by watching movies, playing games, watching the sunrise or sunset, stargazing, or just laying in bed with a good book. There is always plenty to do, so life at sea never gets boring.

One of the exciting things about the NOAA Corps is the wide variety of jobs available to all officers. An officer gets assigned to a new job every two to three years. In addition to working at sea, an officer may work as diver, studying fish and other sea life; as part of a response team to disasters such as the Deepwater Horizon; create nautical charts to help other ships navigate safely; or even fly planes into hurricanes in order to better understand weather patterns. No two officers ever have the same career path, and the opportunities are virtually endless. The NOAA Corps is a very rewarding career for anyone interested in serving their country while helping to further our knowledge of our planet’s oceans and atmosphere.

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