Lt. Matt McKenzie
National Ice Center/Naval Ice Center, Suitland, Md.
computer models to predict acoustic propagation. We
trained the strike groups’ aerographer’s mates (AGs).
I loved doing ASW. It was challenging. It was hands-on. We worked with the people on the front lines all
the way back to the people who were supporting them.
It was a whirlwind of never-ending excitement and it
was all challenging.
We really felt like we were making a lot of impact
here because we’d get these fresh AGs, who didn’t
know anything about ASW. After a four- or five-month
work-up period, they would get to the point where
they were supporting the air ASW squadrons going out
into an operational environment.
Igrew up in Olney, Md., on ’80s Cold War flicks —
movies like “Top Gun” and “Red Dawn” — that really had a big affect on me. Those were a major influence
on my life. I had an interest in everything military.
I joined through the Navy Reserve Officers Training
Corps at the University of South Carolina, where I majored in mathematics. During my senior year I chose the
“Ocean” option, with the stipulation that I first qualify as
a surface warfare officer, and then request transfer to the
METOC — Meteorology and Oceanography Community.
Serving as combat information watch officer and electrical officer on the dock landing ship USS Pearl Harbor,
I enjoyed the practical side of the Navy, driving ships,
being a surface warfare officer. Even more than that, I like
being intellectually stimulated and challenged. I hadn’t
studied any oceanography or meteorology in school, but
it seemed like a really interesting subject. To have them
come to me felt like too good an opportunity to miss.
My favorite assignment was the Naval Oceanographic
ASW [anti-submarine warfare] Detachment in San Diego.
We supported strike groups, destroyer squadrons and air
squadrons that were working up for deployment. We took
water samples and bathymetric data and ran them through
It takes a while to sink in that the National Ice
Center/Naval Ice Center is a different kind of place. We’re
unique in that we’re the only people in the Navy who analyze satellite imagery of the Arctic and the Antarctic. We
have a lot of interaction with international agencies.
I love the AGs here; they’re some of the smartest
guys I’ve ever worked with. We buy them the latest
computer technology. We have in-house software
developers who work hand-in-hand with them on how
to take in the satellite imagery and use the geospatial
information software to analyze the ice and disseminate the information to the Navy, Coast Guard,
Department of Commerce and other customers.
After this tour, I’ll be at the seven-year decision
point. The next tour for me would be maybe postgraduate school for my meteorology master’s degree. If
I stay in the Navy, I want to be the kind of leader who
people follow happily and will want to follow anywhere. I believe that I have the power to make a difference for the folks who work for me. One of my biggest
challenges is to try to make their lives better and,
hopefully, help them enhance not only their professional lives but their personal lives.
I love the security of the Navy. But whatever I
decide, the camaraderie and friendships that have been
made I’ll always carry with me. ■
“If I stay in the Navy, I want to be the kind of leader who people follow hap-
pily and will want to follow anywhere. I believe that I have the power to
make a difference for the folks who work for me.”