The 2023 Recent Alumni Achievement Award recipient is a proud member of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) Corps. Daniel Helmricks was born in Hillsboro, OR, and moved to Newport, OR in the third grade. He attended Newport High School, active in football, track and field, golf, band, Boy Scouts, and Dog 4-H. As a teen, Daniel thought he would become an architect but later decided to study civil engineering and was accepted into Oregon Tech’s program. While Daniel was in Klamath Falls touring the campus, the student ambassador giving the tour was a Geomatics student. By the time the tour had concluded, Daniel had decided to study Geomatics. The opportunity to spend more time outside instead of in an office was a huge selling point for Daniel.
Daniel was a very busy student during his five years at Oregon Tech. He was involved with the Psychology Club, rugby, and the Phi Delta Theta fraternity. Daniel’s father, Doyle Helmricks ’83, was one of the founding members of the Phi Delta Theta chapter at Oregon Tech and met Daniel’s mother, Debbie Helmricks, also a student at the time, on campus. In addition to his other activities, Daniel volunteered with recently retired Athletics Trainer Kelly Caleb. Lastly, this busy Owl also participated in ASOIT, serving as president for two years.
During summers as a college student, Daniel interned with the Bureau of Land Management in Nevada, hoping to get hired by NOAA as a civilian on one of the four hydrographic survey vessels in the fleet. In 2012, he was hired as a civilian and learned about the NOAA Corps, one of the eight military branches of the United States. There are only 344 active duty members of NOAA Corps, making it a highly selective corp. After not being selected with his first application, Daniel applied again in 2013 and was selected to join the corps along with twelve others for Basic Officer Training Class #123. Shortly after receiving his Oregon Tech diploma, Daniel was assigned as a civilian to the NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson as interim Chief Survey Tech. After completing that interim assignment, he reported to the NOAA Ship Fairweather as a Hydrographic Survey Tech.
In January 2014, Daniel was officially sworn in as a commissioned officer of the NOAA Corps and attended Officer Candidate school for five months at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy before returning to NOAA Ship Fairweather as a Junior Officer until September 2016, where he worked on collecting data to update nautical charts. Daniel then went from his station in Alaska to the Maryland/Washington D.C. area and was assigned to NOAA’s Beechcraft King Air 350CER aircraft, working on photogrammetry and aerial photography for coastal mapping of the shorelines to update charts. In June 2020, Daniel joined the National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service (NESDIS) office. He focused on obtaining access to commercial, private, and foreign satellites to obtain data that can better predict volcanic ash, where smoke from wildland fires will go, marine debris, flooding, and other disaster-related issues. This information is essential to assist emergency personnel on the ground, and NESDIS works with local and international entities. After that, in January 2022, Daniel left the D.C. area and went to NOAA Ship Ferdinand R. Hassler, which is homeported in New Castle, New Hampshire, serving as the ship's Navigation Officer. In addition to the Navigation Officer duties, he has also filled the role of Operations Officer starting in March 2022 for 16 months and Executive Officer in May 2022 for five months due to vacancies. In December 2023, Daniel will return to D.C. to serve as the Flag Secretary for the 2-star admiral of NOAA’s Office of Marine and Aviation Operations (OMAO) headquarters for six months, working on legislative affairs duties before working in the Program Coordination office in downtown D.C. as a liaison between the OMAO and NOAA leadership/Department of Commerce leadership.
As Daniel celebrates ten years of service on January 9, 2024, he explains, “It’s been a whirlwind of a career, going around seeing different things. I’ve been able to see more of this country than I would have if it was on my own dime.” Daniel is hoping to retire in another ten years.
Daniel recalls that although he hailed from an Owl family, his parents did not want to influence his college choice. Instead, what drew Daniel to Oregon Tech was the small class sizes. Daniel says, “You aren’t just a number in the system like at a large university. You know the professors. You see them in the community. They say hi to you.” While Daniel's surveying with NOAA wasn’t a focus in his college studies, he does recall a visit from a firm that did hydrographic work. Unlike traditional land surveying, the fact that you have no idea what you’re going to find underneath the water is something that Daniel finds especially intriguing about his field.
Daniel has earned numerous accolades over the past ten years, which is why he was nominated and chosen as this year’s Recent Alumni Achievement awardee. He credits his success to having goals and benchmarks as a driving force. His advice for students is, “Try everything! If there’s an opportunity to see what other programs offer, take it. See what civil engineering does, see what Geomatics does, see what the Business program is about. Find what you’re passionate about and what makes you excited every day to get up and go to work.”
In his spare time, Daniel enjoys anything outdoors, including camping and hiking, doing projects around the house, or exploring wineries and breweries with his partner, Eric. We thank Daniel for his service and continuing his family’s Oregon Tech legacy! Go Owls!