R/V Gloria Michelle
Ensign Christopher Gallagher
Cape Native Joins R/V Gloria Michelle Crew
Joining the NOAA Corps and being able to return to Cape Cod have been dreams come true for Ensign Christopher Gallagher, the new Junior Officer in Charge (JOIC) of the research vessel Gloria Michelle. Born in Hyannis and raised in Sandwich, Chris graduated from Sandwich High School in 2010 and attended college nearby at Massachusetts Maritime Academy (MMA).
That’s where he learned about the NOAA Corps. During the fall semester of freshman year, he met a former Officer in Charge (OIC) of the R/V Gloria Michelle, LCDR Carl Rhodes, at a career fair at the academy. “He sold me, and I went back and talked to him every career fair after that,“ Gallagher said of the experience. “I had my goals set on it after that first meeting.”
He applied to the program in the winter of his senior year, and a month after graduating from MMA in 2014 with a B.S. in marine safety and environmental protection and a minor in marine biology, Gallagher began the Basic Officer Training Class (BOTC) at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, CT. “I was attracted to the travel, being out at sea, diving, and just being around marine science.”
The 19-week BOTC class involves onboard ship-handling exercises coupled with classroom instruction in leadership, officer bearing, NOAA mission and history, ship handling, basic seamanship, firefighting, navigation, and first aid. New NOAA Corps recruits train alongside Coast Guard officers, spending two weeks of their training aboard the 295-foot U.S. Coast Guard Barque Eagle to improve their seamanship, teamwork and leadership skills before receiving their first assignment.
After completing the course, officers are assigned to a NOAA ship for up to three years of sea duty. For Gallagher, that meant heading to Mississippi to work aboard the 209-foot NOAA Ship Pisces in Pascagoula for two years. His duties included serving as the Environmental Compliance Officer, Safety, Damage Control, and Dive Officer. “We sailed all over the Gulf of Mexico, all the way up the East Coast to the northeastern coast of Maine and the Hague Line and down to the U.S. Virgin Islands and around Puerto Rico.”
Gallagher enjoyed the wide range of operations on the ship, from Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) and Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) activities to fishing, camera deployments and mapping. He also enjoyed exploring parts of the country he had never visited during port calls. “I remember conducting a hull dive while we were in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas. It was amazing to have the water visibility of the Caribbean to see the underside of the ship; the Pascagoula River did not really provide a clear view.”
When it came time for another assignment, Gallagher didn’t think twice about coming to Woods Hole and being out on the water again. “Growing up on the Cape I had always wanted to work in Woods Hole since I was a kid, and having the opportunity to operate a vessel out of here had been a dream,” he said. “I am an only child. My family knew going into my career that it was the needs of the service first when it came to assignment locations, but I don’t think they are complaining that I am back on the Cape for a few years.”
Since officially joining the crew on December 19, 2016, he has been busy settling into his cottage in Woods Hole and getting familiar with the Gloria Michelle, which spent the winter in New Bedford undergoing maintenance and upgrades.
“When I first visited the boat during leave a few summers ago, it was great to see how much work Doug Pawlishen (former OIC) and Andy Reynaga (current OIC) had put into the boat. It seemed like an amazing opportunity moving forward to keep up their work.”
He has also been able to see family and friends and adjust to living in New England again. “Being back North, let alone on Cape Cod, has been a transition from coastal Mississippi. Having to not deal with snow was a major perk of living in the South!”
In his spare time he enjoys watching and playing sports, reading, being out on the water and lounging on the beach. While at MMA, he was a four-year member of the baseball team and is looking forward to participating on the NEFSC softball team and joining other NEFSC team activities as his schedule permits.
At the moment, he is looking forward to the start of the 2017 operating season and getting back on the water. “I had the opportunity to sail last September for 10 days and I really enjoyed it. All the work being done this winter, especially the new winches and set-up of the back deck, makes me want to get underway soon.”