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Released March 26, 2003

SOUTHERN MISS, U.S. NAVY PARTNER
TO SHARPEN TECHNOLOGICAL EDGE

STENNIS SPACE CENTER - At a time when the United States is looking more and more to a technologically advanced military, The University of Southern Mississippi's Department of Marine Science is providing a means to enhance that leading edge.

Three years ago, Southern Miss began a partnership with the U.S. Navy to provide an advanced degree program in hydrographic science, the study of mapping the sea floor. The military applications of this discipline dictate the movement of naval forces in combat and peacetime. Large vessels like aircraft carriers require adequate bottom clearance for safe navigation. Surveying the underwater landscape in and around target areas can tell the Navy where forces can safely maneuver.

Rear Admiral Thomas Q. Donaldson V is commander of the worldwide Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command (CNMOC), which is headquartered at Stennis Space Center. Donaldson was named hydrographer of the Navy in April 2001. Both officers and civilian employees of CNMOC have graduated from the Southern Miss program.

"This is a win‑win situation," Donaldson said. "People get the training they need immediately without major disruption to their personal or professional lives. In return, the Navy gets trained people without the expense of sending key performers away to school for a year or more."

In the Southern Miss program based at the Stennis Space Center, naval personnel attend an intensive one‑year program just a few hundred feet from their normal duty stations.

Dr. Denis Wiesenburg is chair of the Southern Miss Department of Marine Science at Stennis and one of the authors of the hydrographic science partnership with the Navy. He sees this type of cooperative venture as an increasing trend in higher education.

AMatching specific educational opportunities with targeted student needs assures the long‑term success of both a university and its clients,@ Wiesenburg said. ASouthern Miss's presence at Stennis allowed us to deliver graduate education where it was needed most and where it could be put to use immediately.

@Gathering some of the top minds in hydrography was a key component of the program from its inception. Faculty moved to Southern Miss from the established Geodesy and Geomatics Engineering Department at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton, New Brunswick, and the Graduate School of Oceanography at the University of Rhode Island in Narragansett.

AWe're very proud to have Dr. David Wells as a guiding force in the formation and delivery of our program,@ Wiesenburg said. Known internationally as one of the leading minds in the field of hydrography, Wells was one of the authors of the first definitive work on global positioning systems (GPS). Today, he continues to teach such courses as ASatellite Geodesy and Positioning,@ exploring the science of the size and shape of the earth and man=s relative position on it.

David Dodd, a 1994 graduate of the geodesy and geomatics engineering program at UNB, coordinates the Hydrographic Science Program at Southern Miss=s Stennis site. AThe program has evolved to provide both national and international students with an advanced education in a program that has received the highest level of accreditation from the international bodies that are responsible for hydrography and the safety of navigation throughout the world,@ Dodd said. The Southern Miss hydrography academic program was awarded category A certification by the Féderation Internationale des Géométres/International Hydrographic Organization (FIG/IHO) International Advisory Board in April 2000.       

This level of expertise in the increasingly technical field has already paid dividends to the Navy.       

AI sent three military members from the first graduating class to aircraft carriers in the Arabian Gulf and they stepped into some of the most important roles on their ships,@ Donaldson said. AOne of them was awarded a Bronze Star for performance in combat operations. Our civilian graduates now include 15 international leaders in ‘Class A’ hydrography at Stennis Space Center.

@With 33 graduates already back at work in their various posts within the Naval Oceanographic Office, the graduates are asked to put their knowledge to work as part of the Navy's Fleet Survey Team (FST). The Navy established the FST to fill a need for fast charting of “hot” areas, including areas where the Navy has – or will have – a significant presence, or where existing chart accuracy is questionable.

The FST consists of three meteorological and oceanographic officers and two to four civilians. Lt. Cmdr. Brian Connon was one of the first recipients of the Southern Miss master=s degree in hydrography and one of the first naval officers assigned to the FST.       

AI think the biggest take‑away from the Fleet Survey Team experience was the value of an applied degree,@ Connon said from his current position as Flag METOC officer for Commander, Carrier Group Five, aboard the USS Kitty Hawk. AThe hands‑on environment and small class size of Southern Miss really made a difference in preparing me for a future in hydrography. We learned the business from the bottom up and can now take that education, apply it to the U.S. Navy=s operations, and provide war fighters with that extra edge.

@Upon completion of their Fleet Survey Team tour, naval officers transfer to fleet billets either on major afloat staffs or as the meteorology and oceanography officer aboard an aircraft carrier or large deck amphibious ship, said Capt. Philip G. Renaud, commanding officer for the Naval Oceanographic Office at Stennis.

AWe prefer that the FST officers transfer to battle group staffs so that they can influence battle group commanders in critical war-fighting decision‑making regarding battlespace  characterization, precise targeting, mine warfare, and safety of navigation,” he said. The FST officers also have familiarity with military survey ship operations and can advise fleet and battle group commanders regarding those surveys.

During their coursework, hydrography students also have an opportunity to participate in ongoing hydrographic research at the university=s Hydrographic Science Research Center (HSRC), also located at Stennis.

Don Roman, CAPT USN (Ret.), is the new director of the HSRC. Roman said he envisions a continued relationship with the U.S. Navy and an expansion of research opportunities with other government and commercial clients.

AThe advances in hydrographic science that result from our research directly benefit both the Navy and the wider national and international hydrographic community,@ Roman said. AHydrographic surveying, data processing and visualization, navigation, marine resource management, and even homeland security are some of the many activities our research will benefit.@

A division of the College of Marine Sciences, the Department of Marine Science is strategically located at Stennis Space Center in Hancock County, home to the world=s largest population of oceanographers and hydrographers. The department officers both master=s and doctoral degrees in marine science and a master's degree in hydrographic science.

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July 16, 2003 9:19 AM

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