In order to conduct the science onboard the Nancy Foster it takes a well coordinated system of officers and crew to sail this almost 200 foot long ship. Without them the science would not be possible. Today I’ll tell you more about the officer positions aboard Nancy Foster and their responsibilities. They are listed in order of rank.
Commanding Officer (CO) – LCDR Stephen Meador
LCDR Meador has been Commanding Officer on Nancy Foster since August 2010 and in the NOAA Corps for 17 years. In a couple weeks LCDR Holly Jablonski will take over as Commanding Officer. The CO is the number one person in charge of the ship with priority one being the safety of the ship and those onboard. The CO works closely with the Chief Engineer on maintenance and any necessary ship alterations. During emergencies the CO calls all the shots from the bridge and acts as central command. When out at sea the ship is in constant motion, meaning someone must be manning the bridge at all times while the ship is underway. Driving the ship is done in rotating shifts between the officers, including the CO. Ultimately the CO is the guiding hand for all ship projects and works very closely with the Chief Scientist and Operations Officer to finalize where and when the ship needs to be in various places to carry out the science plan for the mission.
Executive Officer (XO) – CM Don Pratt
CM Pratt has over 20 years of ship experience and unlike the other officers is not NOAA Corps, but is a U.S. Merchant Marine Officer. The XO insures that everything on the ship is running smoothly. Among his duties are administrative and personnel duties, any personnel pay issues, financial matters, addressing any necessary disciplinary action, standing bridge watches, and training and mentoring Junior Officers. The XO also serves as the ship’s safety officer and medical officer, with EMS training. Any dives that take place during the mission are run by the XO who is the senior diver and senior Dive Master aboard the ship. Lastly, the XO acts on behalf of the CO in their absence or when necessary. Donn greeted me upon my arrival aboard Nancy Foster to welcome me, help me get settled, and is my and the other scientists point of contact for any needs regarding ship life.
Operations Officer (OPS Officer) – LT Josh Slater
LT Slater has been in the NOAA Corps for just over 6 years and has been the liaison between the bridge and the scientists in devising and carrying out a mission plan. The job of OPS Officer varies from ship to ship, but it is beneficial to the ship and the program if they have some kind of background with hydrography, dive operations, small boat operations and the like. This position is usually a 2nd or 3rd sea assignment for NOAA Corps officers. Previous experience in project management in one of NOAA’s program offices is highly beneficial to this position. It is the Operations Officer responsibility to interface with cruise/mission leaders and the scientists aboard, working closely with them to plan and coordinate a successful cruise plan and then carry it into a successful scientific cruise.
Navigation Officer (NAV Officer) – ENS Jamie Park
ENS Park has been on the Nancy Foster for 2 years, which is longer than the other officers aboard and has fairly intimate knowledge of the ship. The NAV Officer works with the OPS Officer in route planning, they are responsible for keeping all paper and electronic charts up-to- date, makes chart corrections, monitors notice to mariners, and provides the CO with all necessary information regarding navigational ship safety. The NAV officer is involved in any additional administrative tasking as assigned by the XO that help the ship run more smoothly. These collateral duties include such tasks as managing shipboard purchases, managing the ship’s Imprest (petty cash) fund, manages accountable property aboard the ship which includes anything over $5,000 and items easily removed from the ship, and also serves as the property management contact for the ship. The NAV Officer is also involved in public relations aboard the ship which includes education outreach, ship tours, and press events. The NAV Officer is also responsible for maintaining the ship’s website.
Junior Officer (JO) – ENS Kelsey Jeffers
Junior Officers are in training to become qualified as an in-port OOD (Officer of the Deck) and underway OOD. JO’s are assigned from Basic Officer Training to ships in the NOAA fleet to become familiar with the ship, the operations conducted aboard that particular ship, and gain knowledge of OMAO and NOAA in general. They are also often assigned other duties as required such as environmental compliance officer, morale officer, Medical person-in-charge, and damage control officer duties which are duties that will help them gain knowledge and experience that they will utilize as building blocks to future assignments in the NOAA fleet and the organization.
In addition to duties listed below, each engineer rotates through an engine room watch schedule similar to the bridge watch officers. These watches are four hours in duration at a time.
Chief Engineer – Tim Olsen
Is responsible for the overall supervision, maintenance, and upkeep of all ship’s mechanical, electrical, piping, and propulsion systems, working closely with the CO.
1st Assistant Engineer – Sabrina Tarabolletti
2nd Assistant Engineer – Carlito Delapena
Both licensed engineers are assigned duties and job lists from the Chief Engineer. They are also primarily responsible for small boat mechanical repairs and repairs to all related machinery that support the scientific mission aboard the ship. They also support the Chief Engineer in whatever mechanical issues arise on the ship and are responsible for day-to-day engine room duties such as filling tanks, performing oil changes, general mechanical maintenance, and monitoring of the engines and ship-service generators. Licensed engineer responsibilities also include heating and cooling throughout the ship, refrigeration, plumbing, and electrical issues that may arise.
Officers in Action bringing us into port in San Juan
Today we returned to port in San Juan for some rest and relaxation, refueling, and restocking.
It was quite an experience to see the Navigation Officer, ENS Jamie Park, ease this large ship up to the dock at the San Juan Coast Guard base. ENS Park manned the controls on the starboard bridge wing to slowly slip the Nancy Foster up against the pier and line it up in the correct position while accompanied by the CO, XO, OPS, and the JO.
Once almost flush with the pier, OPS Officer, LT Josh Slater, stood watch on the starboard side of the stern while communicating via radio the ship’s position in relation to the pier to the Navigation Officer.
Once in place the members of the Coast Guard awaiting our arrival helped secure Nancy Foster to the pier using large nautical ropes called “mooring lines.” In order for us to disembark, the crew, using a small crane mounted on the ship, lifted and secured the gangway into place as a walkway from the Nancy Foster onto the dock.
Once this is in place we are free to come and go as needed and return to the ship at night to sleep.
More info on the ship’s current officers can be found at: http://www.moc.noaa.gov/nf/
Be sure to visit this blog often for field updates, pictures and videos posted by members of the science team.