SOUTH RIVER–With a passion for military service, math and science, South River native and U.S. Naval Lt. Stephanie Geant talked about oceanology as part of New Jersey’s Virtual Navy Week.
Due to the U.S. Department of the Navy’s public health precautions, New Jersey Navy Week, scheduled for May 11-17, was re-imagined into New Jersey Virtual Navy Week, an online virtual outreach event hosted on the Navy Office of Community Outreach’s social media platforms, according to a prepared statement from the Navy Office of Community Outreach Media Outreach Department.
Navy Office of Community Outreach Public Affairs Specialist Dustin Good interviewed Geant on May 12 via Facebook Live.
Geant said she is stationed at the Navy Meteorology and Oceanographic Command at the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi, where she serves as the flag aide to the commander.
“My current job, it’s not as math and science-intensive as some of … the other positions within naval oceanography. So I manage the admiral’s schedule, travel plans and it’s really an overview of the whole community naval oceanography,” Geant said. “So while it may not be math and science-intensive, learning about traveling definitely makes up for not being as hands-on in the math and science realm.”
Geant said naval oceanography as a whole involves the bottom of that ocean to the stars. So there’s not a ship that sails, a submarine that goes underway, or an aircraft that flies without naval oceanography.
“If you want to think, basically all Navy operations start with [oceanography]. So if you want to know the weather forecast, you want to know what your seas are doing, [what] the oceans like, precise navigation and time, everything on your cell phone comes from the United States Navy and naval oceanography. So the time that is on everyone’s cell phone is part of oceanography. So it’s a lot of stuff and it’s really cool,” she said.
For those who are not familiar with oceanography, Geant said she likes to think of it as everything that is not above the waterline.
“If you think about the symmetry of the ocean floor … to how the water acts in the water column based on water temperature, currents, tides, and all that, it has an affect on sound propagation, which is huge to submarines,” Geant said. “So just understanding that and I think [with] oceanography sometimes people think mammals and dolphins and all that really cool stuff, but it’s a lot more than that.”
Born and raised in New Jersey, Geant said she lived there until she was 18 and then went to the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.
“I was 11 years old when Sept. 11  happened and seeing the Twin Towers, not fall, but the aftermath – seeing the smoke in my town, my dad working a double shift as a police officer, and my mom eventually getting laid off,” Geant said. “I think it had a huge influence on me [and] … why I was so angry that something like this could happen. I knew I wanted to serve. So just the proximity to New York City on Sept. 11 alone shaped me to where I am today.”
Being the kid who would dress up as G.I. Joe, Geant said by the time she was in sixth or seventh grade she knew she wanted to be in the military.
“During my high school career, I just knew I wanted to go to a service academy,” Geant said. “So I shaped everything I did, from getting good grades, studying, taking the credit courses, [Advanced Placement] classes and calculus, and then getting involved in sports, making sure I had leadership on my record and kind of just molding the goal I was after, really helped.”
Geant said she went to the Naval Academy with the intent of becoming a pilot and to study aerospace engineering; however, oceanography just really stood out to her.
“So I majored in oceanography and it was cool. The fact … there’s so much to the ocean to learn about and then there’s the weather side, so I focus more on the atmospheric sciences and all the math that’s involved,” Geant said. “So at the Naval Academy, in oceanography alone, you take all the way up to differential equations. … Then at the Naval Academy, you also take two semesters of electrical engineering, chemistry, physics, and it’s just very math and science [intensive].”
Since graduating from the Naval Academy, Geant said she started off as a surface warfare officer and did two surface warfare tours on ships, and both out of Norfolk, Virginia.
“I switched over to become a meteorology officer, which is part of the information warfare community. … So after that, I went to join the Joint Typhoon Warning Center in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, as a command duty officer and then I was there for about two years. … It was one of the coolest tours I’ve had so far,” Geant said.
Geant said the Joint Typhoon Warning Center does typhoon or hurricane warnings throughout the western, Pacific southern hemisphere and does repackaging warnings for the central and eastern Pacific for the Central Pacific Hurricane Center, which is in Honolulu, Hawaii. It also does tsunami warnings for the U.S. Department of Defense.
“In the practical sense, you’re not necessarily sitting there writing a math problem out, but the forces that are the Earth has, the rotation, [and] the atmospheric instability all play into whether or not a storm system is going to form,” Geant said. “That’s why you always hear ‘well if you’re in the southern hemisphere and if you flush a toilet, it’ll rotate the other way.’ That’s not a true statement, but it’s caused by a force on the earth.”
Geant said the Coriolis Force is needed in order to have a hurricane. She said her craziest experience while serving as far was when was in Hawaii during the 2018 Hawaii false missile alert incident.
“After my current position … I’m going to go to graduate school at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, and I’ll get a master’s in physical oceanography and meteorology,” Geant said. “From there, I’ll go to a ship for a two-year tour, or Carrier Strike Group to be the oceanographer of the ship or the strike group.”
For students who are interested in becoming an oceanographer, Geant said she would encourage them to take math classes.
“Don’t allow yourself to get behind because the forces of the earth are a math problem,” Geant said. “So just understanding having that mathematical foundation and then being able to apply that to the science realm, and how math fits into the global effects.”
Contact Vashti Harris at email@example.com.