Captain Garstka says some 200 sailors and civilians work with the NOOC, with the vast majority of the civilians born and educated in Mississippi.

The Naval Oceanography Operations Command (NOOC), located at John C. Stennis Space Center in south Mississippi, manages the warfighter-connected operations of the Stennis-based Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command (NMOC).

NOOC is the operational arm of Commander, Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command that oversees fourteen subordinate commands and is the sole source for global oceanographic, riverine and atmospheric knowledge for the U.S. Navy and Department of Defense.

With 24/7 reach back to production centers, and a small military footprint forward, NOOC provides an asymmetric warfighting advantage by exploiting the current and future state of the environment.

Captain J.P. Garstka spoke with Y’all Politics on Monday to highlight his team and to discuss his role as Commanding Officer of Naval Oceanography Operations Command (NOOC).

Captain J. P. Garstka

Captain Garstka entered the U.S. Naval Academy in 1995. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Oceanography and was commissioned an Ensign in the United States Navy in 1999.

His military decorations include the Meritorious Service Medal (four awards), Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal (two awards), Navy Achievement Medal (two awards), and various service, unit, and campaign awards.

As Commanding Officer of NOOC, Garstka said he is the head leadership for the NOOC and oversees the execution of the command missions, the care of their personnel, both military and civilian, and provides executive level direction and vision both for missions they carry out and the budget execution of this command. 

NOOC is just one of fourteen commands that fall under Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command. Garstka said the purpose of NOOC is to enhance naval war fighting capabilities.

“And we do that through understanding the maritime environment and then taking that knowledge and understanding and applying it to operation and tactical decision making for the Navy and for the fleet,” Captain Garstka said. 

Garstka has two commands that work underneath him. They are the Naval Oceanography Special Warfare Center, based in San Diego, California, and the Naval Oceanography Mine Warfare Center, located here in Mississippi.

“We have about 200 sailors and civilians total that work under me and they are located here in the United States, that’s right here in Mississippi at Stennis Space Center,” Captain Garstka said, adding that there are also personnel located in San Diego, Norfolk, Italy, Spain, Bahrain, Japan and other places around the world.

“We have a pretty broad reach and from a lot of those units we’re able to deploy about twenty agile teams to meet Navy mission requirements,” Garstka said. “

The Captain said that at NOOC at Stennis, their primary focus is a reach back center and so those that are deployed can use the Mississippi center to get assistance and tactical products to help shape some of the decisions that afloat units are carrying world-wide.

“That can be aviation support, that can be surface ships, that can be submarines. We provide all of that support right here from Stennis and giving them some of those decision aids to help shape their operations and exercises,” Captain Garstka said. “I mean what does that look like? For us, it can look like providing products in areas of the world where there’s concerns about the presence of mines and how we would go about finding them, identifying them within the ocean environment. It can be providing products to submarines so that they understand where they are within the ocean environment, where they should operate optimally as far as acoustics are concerned or to be able to better hide in the environment or to utilize the environment to their advantage.”

“We do kind of cross a lot of different areas as far as how we leverage the information that we know about the atmosphere and the ocean so that our navy fighting forces can operate better,” Captain Garstka continued. 

Garstka said that for him, part of what he has enjoyed the most not just at this command but from his over 23 years in the Navy, has always come back to the people. 

“The civilians, the sailors that I get to work with on a day-to-day basis, they’re just such top-quality individuals,” Captain Garstka said. “I really appreciate their dedication and I think for me personally, I always get a lot of satisfaction out of being able to help them achieve some of their personal goals and professional goals within the scope of, you know, what I’m able to do and how I’m able to serve them, because they give so much to the command and to the Navy.”

Captain Garstka noted that he really appreciates the expertise of the people that work at this command, both the skills that their sailors have, their forecasting abilities, and then the subject matter expertise of the civilians that work there. 

“The vast majority of the civilians that I have here working for me are from here, most folks are from right here in Mississippi,” Captain Garstka said. “They’ve gone to school within the state, and they bring with them some of those skillsets… they’re right here, native born and born right here in Mississippi and they’re making a difference both in our nation and for the Navy and so I just really appreciate that as well.”