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After 10 years as the first and only Director of the NOAA Corps, Harley Nygren decided to retire.harley nygren The official date was January 1, 1981. He has been replaced by Captain Kelly E. Taggart, who has been promoted to Rear Admiral (Upper Half).

We talked to Harley recently and he commented on the following:

The most exciting assignment had to be the Arctic Party in 1949-1952 where "I had the hell scared out of me." Conditions were grim and harsh with combined operations conducted many miles from civilization--no one near by to rescue you. We saw an airplane and got mail and supplies once a month when possible. Combined operations of geodesy, photogrammetry and hydrography filled field seasons 7 to 9 months long with no breaks. There were no ships--the men lived in tents, boats, and shacks. Sometimes you would complete hydro at dusk at project limits--camp out overnight on the launch--and split the lines coming back to camp the next day. You had about 6 to 8 weeks of open water starting in August when all possible daylight was used for hydro. The assignment lasted 3 years.

The most fun assignment was as U.S. observer on a British Antarctic Expedition in 1961. I rode for 4 months on their two ships which combined scientific research and supply trips. Only duty was to help out as necessary and to write a report (sounds great)--and I even got to visit many back ports in the Falkland Islands.

The most important contribution only history will tell--perhaps the establishment of the Corps as a NOAA asset--or it might be the survey of Prudhoe Bay. (I think we can say that Harley also had a lot to do with improving the morale of individual officers--he got involved with us! He opened the system with communication--the Officer Assignment Board, the Officer Personnel Board, the Corps Bulletin and the Service Report with its feedback sections.) The old way was: "Tell 'em nothing, show 'em nothing, ask 'em nothing--no news is good news." If you have complaints now, there are people who will listen.

Biggest regret Don't think there are any regrets--didn't enjoy every minute, might do some things differently, but am not worried about lost opportunities. We (the Corps) might have moved more aggressively but don't think the Corps missed any opportunities. A kind of a regret (not in terms of what was done or not done) is that more people don't understand the position and role of the Director of the Corps (he's more than a personnel officer)--the perception lingers that the Director, NOS, is the top job and this doesn't help to build career ladders throughout NOAA.

Future of the Corps More of the same in long term--don't know what I see in the short term. We must spread officers throughout NOAA, retain our marine orientation with strong participation and management of marine areas--that's where our officers make a difference. NOS losing numerically may not be that serious. If senior management in NOS drops one or two levels, this would increase the level in other areas of NOAA and expand the Corps in the long run.

Advice to officers Be concerned with your job and the programs, not the organization. The work is important and will continue--the sign on the door doesn't make any difference. We get caught up with organization change and doing things that are not especially important to the taxpayers; however, the job is the key. (To the officers in training class)--we do a lot of things you won't like such as. . .If you stay in, don't complain later because I've told you now, but the tough times will produce good sea stories--'my captain was worse than yours.'

Retirement January 1, 1980 is the day. We will probably stay here in Virginia for a while. We've tried to minimize moves for the Corps due to the high cost--the same goes for me. Seattle is a nice place, although it can be wet at times. (Captain Fortin once remarked that he had been in Seattle so long that moss had gown on his north side.) Only whole summer I was in Seattle I spent on the Ship HODGSON. Enjoyed lots of jobs on small ships in the early days with lots of responsibilities, including deck work. Now in retirement, I'm back to lots of jobs around the house, with a little golf thrown in, of course.

Thanks, Harley, for a fine job. You have established the Corps as a vital part of NOAA and opened up new career avenues for us. You have created a communication system between the officers and your office in which there is empathy and personal concern. Your officer assignments and actions have not always met with great favor from the "troops;" however, we agree with the very positive manner in which you have stood up for individual officer needs and desires. In our service, the organization's requirements come first; however, there must also be some recognition and weight given to officer requests and special concerns. We know that the NOAA Corps has grown positively as a result of your leadership and we thank you. We wish you and Norma God speed in this phase of your life.

ACO, 1/1980

Publication of the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), NOAA Central Library.
Last Updated: June 8, 2006 9:27 AM

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