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> 9-18-05: Interview with Captain Dan Oliver
post Sep 20 2005, 12:23 AM
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Interview with Captain Dan Oliver
“Life is one big adventure and I enjoy the heck out of it.”

The ship's Commanding Officer (CO), or Captain, is responsible for the ship, everyone on it and for safety and accomplishing the tasks assigned to it. Who is the Captain on the USCGC HEALY? Out of my observations over the past four weeks Captain Dan Oliver is “The Man”! With this in mind I have asked him to grant me an interview. Enjoy!

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Captain Dan Oliver

Captain Dan Oliver has more than 30 years service experience in the U.S. Coast Guard, 26 years of active duty and 4 years as a cadet at the Coast Guard Academy.
He has sailed on USCGC HEALY over 4 years, two years as Executive Officer (XO) and 2 years as Commanding Officer. After high school he joined the U.S. Coast Guard and attended the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut, 1975 -1979. He graduated with a Bachelors degree in marine science. Captain Dan Oliver got his graduate degree, a Masters in naval architecture, marine engineering and mechanical engineering, from the University Michigan. He has a 22 year old son and a 17 year old daughter. His son earned a bachelor degree in history. Right now he travels the world and will work at the main U.S. Science Station in Antarctica, McMurdo Station. His daughter is a senior in high school.

What hobbies do you have?
I like playing the banjo, hiking and biking.

For how long are you away from home during a year?
About 200 days in a year. This HEALY cruise is 180 days long. It started on June 1st and we will return to Seattle on November 28.
We visit the ports of Dutch Harbor, Tromso, Dublin, Azores, St. Martin, Panama Canal and Cabo San Lucas.

What is the first thing you will do when you come home to Seattle in November?
…I will take a long walk through Seattle and visit a couple of pubs…

Why did you join the coast guard?
I planned to go to college all along. My family had an old stack of “National Geographic" in the library at our house. I read through those for years. I really got a kick out of them. I came across a series of three stories about a young kid named Robin Lee Graham. He left California when he was 16 years old on a 24 foot sailboat. It took him 5 years to sail a boat around the world, all by himself. I thought to do this sounded so cool. I had never been on a boat- I had no idea. Looked around to figure out where I could go to learn how to sail and I came across the U.S. Coast Guard Academy and thought it was a pretty good deal.

Are you still happy with your decision to join the U.S. Coast Guard?
Oh yes, I’ve traveled all over the world. I like going to sea. I like moving around. And, after just 20 years of service. you can earn a retirement if you choose to do so. Now in my life, it would be a little odd for me to get a job and not be moving every 2 or 3 years on the job.

How would you describe the ship if it would be a person?
I guess I would look at it as a weight lifting scientist, it matches our mission. HEALY is a powerful scientific research ship and can shoulder its way in the most extremes.

Are you ever afraid that the ice could make a hole into the ship’s hull?
No, in that regard no. The ship is built very strong. I am not too worried about the hull itself. We have been in pretty tough conditions with no damage. I won’t say we never could be damaged, sea ice could very well damage the props and the rudders, but sea ice is not massive enough to hurt us.

What are your plans for the future?
I don’t know yet. I am due to rotate next summer. I would like to extend the time on the HEALY but I am already on a one year extension. I have asked to go on one of the Polars either POLAR SEA or POLAR STAR. If I cannot stay afloat on one of the ice breakers I may go back in the naval engineering program. Well hmm, I can always retire as well, I think about it at some times…

You could become a teacher?
Yes, I am thinking of that. You know, I taught at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy for a couple of years in the marine engineering department and I really liked it. I have taken a few courses working toward a teaching certification for secondary education in mathematics. I enjoy teaching, I enjoy math and I like the idea to have an extended summer off. Teaching jobs are everywhere, as a teacher my opportunities for where to go are extended.

What message would you give to high school students?
It is a really tough time in their life as they are trying to figure out where they want to go.
I have always considering myself as more of an optimist. There is a quote by Henry Ford that I like and when things are getting tough it always comes to my mind: “Whether you think you can, or whether you think you can’t- You know the answer.” I consider this quote for young folks finishing up high school that as you enter life keep a positive outlook on life and an optimistic outlook on what you think you would like to do in your life. I am a firm believer that irrespective of your economic back ground and even your educational back ground; you can overcome that if you have enough drive.

Life is one big adventure and I enjoy the heck out of it.
And for a student who really has no clue for what to do, I recommend you consider going into one of the military services. For one it gets you through this 18 to early 20’s age where you do a lot of growing and maturing. You will have opportunities to meet a lot of folks that you normally would not meet, to travel that you normally would not get, the GI bill to help you through college, and to pick up the initial few years of experience at a trade. I think the service offers some outstanding opportunities. All the services are focusing so much on education as they all realize that an educated workforce is a better workforce. For students that are at a loss what to do and with no direction to follow, take a hard look at the military services, they offer you quite a bit.

Thanks and appreciation to the Captain of the USCGC HEALY, Dan Oliver, for his time and generosity in granting me this interview.

Ute Kaden
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