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Officer Profile: Lieutenant Timothy Holland

Apr 20, 2023

How did you hear about the NOAA Corps?

When I was an undergraduate at Syracuse University studying aerospace engineering, I was interested in underwater robotics. My engineering advisor put me in touch with an archaeology professor in the College of Arts and Science. I met with the professor and he told me his friend “Bob” was coming next week to give a lecture and I should attend. I attended the lecture and his friend Bob turned out to be Dr. Robert “Bob” Ballard, the marine explorer who located Titanic. I got to spend some time talking with Dr. Ballard after the lecture, and he told me about NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer, which is the only government ship in the world that focuses on underwater exploration, and of the men and women of the NOAA Corps who serve on the ship.

What inspired you to become a NOAA Corps officer?

Every job I have had in my life has been for some level of the government. From my days on the Margate City Beach Patrol to working in NASA’s mission control center for the International Space Station, public service has always been part of my calling. The other part of the NOAA Corps that interested me the most is the adventure. In my NOAA Corps career I have sailed to remote Pacific Islands, spent time on the most northern point of Alaska, lived in American Samoa, and spent a year at the South Pole. The NOAA Corps gives me the opportunity to give back to the community, locally and globally, as well as a sense of adventure in my everyday life.

Can you explain your role and responsibilities as American Samoa and Antarctica Station Chief?

NOAA’s Global Monitoring Laboratory manages four atmospheric baseline observatories around the world. These observatories are located in remote places to measure atmospheric chemistry in areas with minimal human influence. Each station has 12 core instruments that measure different atmospheric compounds, including chlorofluorocarbons, carbon dioxide, solar radiation, and ozone. The primary duty of the station chief, a position I held at the station in American Samoa from June 2019 to July 2020 and in Antarctica from November 2020 to November 2021, is to keep the science flowing. The station chief works to maintain and repair the instruments, take air samples, and launch balloons that measure the ozone layer. On top of all the scientific activities, the station chief also handles the administrative tasks for the facility, such as paying the utility bills, maintaining the government owned vehicles, handling logistics, and maintaining the buildings that house the scientific instruments. The observatory in American Samoa has a larger footprint including a few acres of property. While at the South Pole, the chief is only responsible for the instruments.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to be a NOAA Corps officer?

The best advice I would give someone who wants to be a NOAA Corps officer is to do what you enjoy. To be a successful NOAA Corps officer, it is important to be a well-rounded person. It helps to be a good team player, active, and resourceful. As a NCAA Division 1 swimmer, playing sports at a high level was incredibly valuable for my preparation. It taught me teamwork, selflessness, and goal orientation, which are important values for NOAA Corps officers.

As a NOAA Corps officer, how do you support environmental stewardship?

My favorite mission on NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette was the marine debris research and removal mission in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands in 2018. We sailed to remote atolls and islands in Papahānaumokuāea Marine National Monument to remove fishing nets and plastics from these islands and atolls. The crew also studied the debris and tried to trace origins. We even recovered Japanese buoys that became dislodged from their anchors in natural disasters. This mission highlighted the topic of marine debris in the ocean, and our outreach efforts helped spread awareness of what everyday people can do to help keep the oceans clean.

What are some of your goals for your time as a NOAA Corps officer?

Thankfully, I have accomplished most of my goals I set for myself when entering the NOAA Corps. I’ve sailed to small tropical islands aboard Oscar Elton Sette. I spent a year at the South Pole. Currently, I am looking to round out my diving career by attending the NOAA Diving Medical Technician course. My next big challenge is to join Okeanos Explorer as their next operations officer and earn my Senior Watch Officer qualification. Ultimately, my goal is to fly for NOAA, which would bring my NOAA career full circle.

What operational moment sticks out to you the most and why?

The moment that sticks out is my first watch as a newly qualified Officer of the Deck (OOD) while underway on NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette. Earlier in the day, the commanding officer of the ship, threw “Oscar,” the training dummy, overboard while I was standing watch (driving the ship under the supervision of a qualified OOD). I had to maneuver the ship to recover Oscar. Oscar Elton Sette is 227 feet in length and weighs 1,630 tons. It requires precise skill to maneuver the ship quickly to recover an overboard person (or dummy in this case). I remember my first watch that night, we were heading towards Pearl Harbor on Oahu and it hit me. I was fully responsible for the ship and the 40 crewmembers and scientists onboard. It's a culmination of a lot of effort to become a qualified OOD, something you work towards from your first day in basic officer training.

If you could go back and change anything, what would it be?

I have been lucky enough during my career in NOAA to get my first choice for every assignment. I started off on a ship in Hawaii, traveled to the Arctic circle, American Samoa, the South Pole, moved to Miami, and now I’m looking forward to exploring the Pacific ocean with a return to Hawaii aboard Okeanos Explorer. If I could go back and change one thing, I would have taken more time to build up my flight program application between my remote assignments. I have really enjoyed all the experiences, but my ultimate goal is to fly.