February 20, 2009
NOAA Ship Hi`ialakai.
High resolution (Credit: NOAA)
Cmdr. John T. Caskey of the NOAA Commissioned Officers Corps took command today of the NOAA Ship Hi`ialakai, a ship dedicated to coral reef ecosystem research. He is the fourth to command the 224-ft. NOAA vessel, which was commissioned in 2004. The change of command ceremony was held on Ford Island, home port to three NOAA ships in Hawaii.
Cmdr. Caskey relieves Cmdr. Jon D. Swallow, who will report to the NOAA Commissioned Personnel Center in Silver Spring, Md., as chief of the Officer Career Management Division. Under Cmdr. Swallow’s leadership, Hi`ialakai safely performed over 7,000 scientific scuba dives and supported numerous coral reef research, multibeam sonar mapping, and education and outreach cruises throughout the Pacific.
“I have every confidence that Cmdr. Caskey will continue the outstanding leadership and standards of excellence established by Cmdr. Swallow as commanding officer of Hi`ialakai,” said Rear Admiral Jonathan W. Bailey, director of the NOAA Office of Marine and Aviation Operations and director of the NOAA Corps. “His skills as a mariner and deep appreciation for the scientific programs, coupled with his prior experience as executive officer aboard Hi`ialakai, will make for a smooth transition.”
A NOAA Corps officer since 1993, Cmdr. Caskey’s service in the NOAA fleet has taken him to the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian oceans, the Caribbean Sea, and the Gulf of Mexico as well as 25 countries. His previous sea assignments have been as a junior officer of NOAA Ship Malcolm Baldrige, and Executive Officer of NOAA Ships Ka`imimoana and Hi`ialakai. Ashore, Cmdr. Caskey has served as an environmental officer in Gloucester, Mass.; port captain in San Diego, Calif.; and most recently as chief of the Officer Career Management Division in Silver Spring, Md.
Cmdr. Caskey earned a bachelor's degree in marine biology from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. He lives in Maryland with his wife, Lucy, and their two children, Joshua and Allison.
The NOAA Office of Marine and Aviation Operations, composed of civilians and commissioned officers, manages and operates the agency's fleet of ships and aircraft. All NOAA Corps officers hold degrees in science, engineering or math, and serve in operational leadership roles throughout the agency. The NOAA Corps is the nation's smallest uniformed service.
Hi`ialakai, a Hawaiian name, means “embracing pathways to the sea.” The ship supports the nation’s coral reef research and conservation goals by conducting dive intensive research and ecosystem mapping in the Hawaiian Islands, Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, and the Pacific insular area. Its complement includes five commissioned officers, 26 civilian crew members, and up to 22 scientists. The ship features a three person, double-lock recompression chamber for dive safety. It is equipped with five small boats and high resolution multibeam sonars for seabed mapping. Deck equipment also supports oceanographic and buoy operations. Specific projects conducted by scientists aboard the ship include shipwreck research, predatory tagging and tracking, coral reef health, invertebrate studies, and how marine organism populations are linked.NOAA understands and predicts changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and conserves and manages our coastal and marine resources.