WASHINGTON (AP) _ The first woman to command a U.S. government ship is now in charge of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Corps, the nation’s seventh uniformed service.
Rear Adm. Evelyn Fields took command of the 229-member corps this week following her confirmation by the Senate.
NOAA Corp, part of the Commerce Department, operates research ships and aircraft studying the weather, oceans and fish. It traces its roots to the Coast and Geodetic Survey founded in 1807.
``We are extremely pleased that this exceptional, visionary officer will serve at the head of the NOAA Corps,″ said Commerce Secretary William Daley. ``She was the first African-American woman to be commissioned in the NOAA Corps, the first woman to command a federal ship,″ he noted.
She succeeds Rear Adm. William L. Stubblefield, who retired on March 1.
Fields began her career with the NOAA in 1972 as a cartographer at the Atlantic Marine Center in Norfolk, Va., and in 1973 _ when the NOAA began recruiting women into its commissioned service _ was the first black woman to join. She is now the most senior woman in the corps.
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.
She also served as the second U.S. exchange hydrographer with Canada and attended the Armed Forces Staff College.
NOAA Corps airplanes fly into the eyes of hurricanes to measure their strength and chart their movement. It was the NOAA Corps sonar ship Rude that located the wreckage of TWA Flight 800. The agency produces the nation’s nautical charts for shipping vessels and it produced maps of the Persian Gulf during Operation Desert Storm in 1991.