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Pamela Chelgren-Koterba

Pamela Chelgren-Koterba

Pamela Chelgren-Koterba (née Chelgren; born 1950) is a former officer of the United States' National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Commissioned Officer Corps. The daughter of a career naval officer, she was the first woman to receive a commission in the history of the NOAA Corps and, in 1977, was appointed to what was then the highest shipboard posting ever held by a woman in the Uniformed Services of the United States.

Pamela Chelgren-Koterba
Birth namePamela Chelgren
Annapolis, Maryland, United States
Allegiance United States
Service NOAA Corps
Years of service1972–1995
Alma materUniversity of California Berkeley

Early life and education

United States Secretary of Commerce Peter George Peterson administers the commissioning oath to Pamela Chelgren. Her father, Captain John Chelgren, is holding the Bible.
In 1977, Chelgren was made third in command of NOAAS Peirce.
Pamela Chelgren-Koterba (right) is pictured with Rear Admiral Harley Nygren in 2018.

Pamela Chelgren-Koterba was born in 1950 in Annapolis, Maryland, and raised at various locations in the United States.[1] She was the third of seven children of Captain John Chelgren, a career U.S. Navy officer who served as the technical director of the anti-air warfare ship acquisition project (1969–1972), and Ruth Henderson, an opera singer.[1][2]

As a child she learned piano and flute and excelled at mathematics; while attending high school in 1967 in Bremerton, Washington, she was selected to attend the competitive summer mathematics institute at Western Washington State College.[1] She finished her high school studies in Point Mugu, California and enrolled as an undergraduate at the University of California at Berkeley studying bioengineering where she received a Bachelor's of Science in 1972.[3][4][1] At Berkeley, she worked at the Space Sciences Laboratory, where she was responsible for checking data tapes for the OGO 5 satellite.[1]


In 1972, Chelgren joined the NOAA Corps and completed the NOAA Basic Officer Training Course in Kings Point, New York, thereafter being commissioned an ensign, the first woman to receive an officer commission in the service's history.[3][1][5] At the time of joining the NOAA Corps, she was unaware there were no women members. In an interview, she stated that – while she agreed with the elimination of discrimination against women in the workplace – she did not belong to any women's liberation organizations and felt that "some of the real radicals seem to hate men, and I don't go along with that".[1]

In October 1977, Chelgren – then a lieutenant – was made operations officer aboard the 162-foot (49 m) hydrographic survey ship NOAAS Peirce, what was then the highest shipboard posting ever held by a woman in any of the Uniformed Services of the United States.[3]

In May 1995 Chelgren-Koterba retired at the rank of commander.[6] She later went to work as a Crisis Readiness Manager for Alyeska Pipeline Service Company (1996-2006), thence a planner and on-call responder for Witt O'Brien's (an oil spill management company), and a planner and on-call Incident Commander for the Washington State Maritime Cooperative, a hybrid public-private organization coordinating oil spill response in Washington state.[7][8]

Personal life

Chelgren-Koterba is a recreational skier and boater.[1]


  • Lillywhite, Harvey; Licht, Paul; Chelgren, Pamela (1973). "The Role of Behavioral Thermoregulation in the Growth Energetics of the Toad, Bufo Boreas". Ecology. 54 (2): 375–383. doi:10.2307/1934345. JSTOR 1934345.
  • Hankins, Paul; Knutsen, Gregg; Chelgren-Koterba, Pamela (March 2001). "Alyeska Pipeline Service Company's Response Training Program". International Oil Spill Conference Proceedings. 2001: 65–71. doi:10.7901/2169-3358-2001-1-65.
  • Chelgren-Koterba, Pamela; Iwamoto, Larry; Hutton, Charlene; Lautenberger, Carl (March 2001). "Alaska Incident Management System (AIMS) Guide For Oil and Hazardous Substance Response". International Oil Spill Conference Proceedings. 2001 (2): 1059–1006. doi:10.7901/2169-3358-2001-2-1059.

See also


  1. NOAA. U.S. Department of Commerce. 1972. pp. 26–28.
  2. "John Chelgren". Kitsap Sun. June 6, 2000. Retrieved May 15, 2020.
  3. "Women in the NOAA Corps". Women in Action. U.S. Civil Service Commission. 1977. Retrieved May 15, 2020.
  4. Dictionary of Women Worldwide: 25,000 Women Through the Ages. Gale Research. 2006. ISBN 0787675857.
  5. "A Woman First". Cumberland News. July 7, 1972. Retrieved May 15, 2020 via required)
  6. "Making Waves: Notable Women in Ocean Science". National Ocean Service. NOAA. Retrieved May 15, 2020.
  7. "About". Washington State Maritime Cooperative. Retrieved May 15, 2020.
  8. WSMC Oil Spill Contingency Plan December 2013 Version Transmittal of Revision, Change # 6. Seattle: Washington State Maritime Cooperative. 2013.
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