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Rear Admiral Evelyn Fields

NOAA Corps Rear Admiral Evelyn J. Fields
NOAA Corps Rear Admiral Evelyn J. Fields. (Credit: NOAA)

Rear Admiral Evelyn Fields didn’t plan to make history – but she did.

Fields is the first African-American and first woman to become director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Commissioned Officers Corps, the nation’s seventh uniformed service. Nominated by U.S. President Bill Clinton, Fields was confirmed for the position by the U.S. Senate and officially assumed her command in July 1999, to serve as rear admiral as she headed the agency's fleet of ships and aircraft, overseeing more than 1,100 employees.

Fields graduated from Norfolk State College (now Norfolk State University) in 1971. She began her career with NOAA as a civilian cartographer, or map maker, at the Atlantic Marine Center in Norfolk, Virginia in 1972. One year later, when NOAA began recruiting women into its commissioned service, she became the first African-American woman to join the Corps. The NOAA Commissioned Officers Corps is a small, elite corps of officers, all with college degrees in science, engineering or mathematics, who serve within the many environmental research programs of NOAA.

NOAA ship McArthur
NOAA ship McArthur. (Credit: NOAA)
In the 26 years Fields served as a NOAA Corps officer, she served in a variety of staff positions. Most notably, Fields 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 was also selected to be the second U.S. Exchange Hydrographer with Canada. Most recently, she served as deputy assistant administrator of NOAA’s National Ocean Service.

In an essay for NOAA, Fields proudly explained her job and her duties.

NOAA Corps Rear Admiral Evelyn J. Fields
NOAA Corps Rear Admiral Evelyn J. Fields. (Credit: NOAA)
“Being a NOAA Corps officer is a privilege and an honor,” Fields wrote. “Newly commissioned officers have wound their way through a very competitive recruiting process and completed a rigorous training program. As NOAA Corps officers, they will be a critical part of the web of science and management within NOAA.”

Fields has served on several ships including the Mt. Mitchell and Peirce as operations officer, and Rainer as executive officer. Deployments have included both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean and Alaskan waters. Her sea experience covers hydrographic survey operations, fisheries research, and oceanographic research.

"The secret to success is in yourself, your own drive and determination and ability to make your own opportunities,” Fields told reporters. “You will also need all the courage you can muster, the type of courage that allows you to take chances and make mistakes, but most of all, to believe in yourself."


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