Commander, Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command (NMOC) Rear Adm. John Okon hosted a ceremony on Jan. 25, to honor its very first Hall of Fame inductees and dedicate the latest supercomputers after the Naval Oceanography legends.
“We establish the Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Hall of Fame to preserve history, honor excellence and connect generations,” said Rear Adm. Okon. “When it came to selecting the first class we had over 30 years to cull over, and we knew this class would be like none other. They are the stalwarts of the community and the Navy, and I am humbled they are here with us today.”
Retired Rear Adm. James Koehr commanded then-named Naval Oceanography Command from 1984 to 1991. Dr. Donald Durham served as Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command’s technical/deputy director from 1989 to 2002, along with being the senior civilian executive and the top scientific advisor. Retired Vice Adm. Paul Gaffney II was commander, NMOC from 1994 to 1997.
“Growing up outside of St. Louis, I didn’t get my first airplane ride and see the ocean until I joined the Navy at 22. And eventually I became an oceanographer,” said Koehr.
Koehr began his tour as a captain until a special Navy selection board nominated him as the first oceanography designator officer for promotion to flag rank. His appointment to rear admiral became effective on Sept. 1, 1988. During his tour, Naval Oceanography developed into a national and world center of excellence through rapid developments in computers and supercomputers, satellite imagery and communication among other areas.
Durham oversaw the transition of the first high resolution global ocean prediction system into operations. He drove innovative and cost effective engagements with industry including cooperative research to search for Amelia Earhart’s lost Lockheed Electra.
Gaffney became the first naval oceanographer to attain the rank of vice admiral. He attained the visionary goal of making Naval Oceanography a true world-class supercomputing facility and delivered three oceanographic survey ships into the operational fleet—USNS Pathfinder, USNS Sumner and USNS Bowditch.
“Our competitors strive to shake our confidence. In order to keep our confidence from being shaken we must know what’s happening in the undersea domain. We have that here at Naval Oceanography and no other nation does,” said Gaffney
The ceremony was attended by current and former staff members some of which served with the inductees.
“When I first started my career in Naval Oceanography, we had meteorology teams around the world that had less computer capabilities than I have on my phone today,” said Durham.
The program also included the unveiling of and ribbon-cutting on the newest DoD Supercomputing Resource Center’s supercomputers that were installed in 2018 and named after Koehr, Durham and Gaffney. These latest installations will now provide users with almost seven petaflops of computing capability and are among some of the fastest supercomputers in the world.