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COMET’s new chief

Rich Jeffries brings a diverse résumé

March 22, 2013 | Fifteen years after he completed his first COMET training module as an operational forecaster, Rich Jeffries is now heading the program. Jeffries took the post on March 1, succeeding longtime COMET director Tim Spangler.

Rich Jeffries
Rich Jeffries. (©UCAR. Photo by Carlye Calvin.)

The move to UCP sews together key threads of Rich’s career. He spent 23 years involved with U.S. Navy weather prediction, including four years as director of operations at the Joint Typhoon Warning Center at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Over the last decade, he’s filled three managerial posts, overseeing education and training for the 3,000-person Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command. Rich also holds a doctorate in human capital development from the University of Southern Mississippi.

Rich’s early days as a COMET patron included taking a residence class on radar and satellite imagery in the late 1990s.  “I also completed a bunch of the modules that were on CD-ROM disks,” he recalls.

More recently, Rich served as an alternate member of COMET’s executive board (2006–2012), which brought him to Boulder for a number of meetings.

Despite those visits, it’s been awhile since Rich has lived in a snow-prone climate. He’s spent most of his career in warmer and wetter locations, including Mississippi, southeast Virginia, and Monterey, California, as well as Guam. During his days as a Navy forecaster, Rich also served in Sicily, Japan, and the island of Diego Garcia.

A native of northeast Kansas, Rich was a supply clerk in the Air Force for two years. It was only later, after he returned to the military, that he got the weather bug. “I went to the Air Force recruiting center, but they didn’t need any supply people. I went across the hall, and there was the Navy recruiter.” He was soon steered toward meteorology: “It wasn’t anything I tried to choose, but I ended up falling in love with it.”

Rich’s direct contact with wild weather is impressive. Along with experiencing several typhoons while stationed in Guam, he encountered two tornadoes during his childhood in Kansas, including a famous twister that struck Topeka in 1966 and another in 1961 that virtually destroyed his tiny hometown of Meriden. “Our house and the one next door were the only ones still standing,” he recalls.

At COMET, Rich will oversee the program’s evolving portfolio of training, which includes an ever-increasing emphasis on online materials. The program recently handed over its longtime main classroom (located just behind the FL2 reception desk) to MMM, although it will maintain a smaller training facility in its CG2 home.

Rich also hopes to use his experience and education in human resources to strengthen COMET as well as to help the organization as a whole.

“My priority as COMET director is to look for opportunities for collaboration across UCAR and NCAR in transferring science to help society,” says Rich. “I think it’s a real niche we have as an organization.”