A high-ranking naval officer with roots in Central New York is spending a few days in his hometown, visiting students of all ages to talk about his long career in the Navy.
Rear Admiral and Naval Oceanographer John Okon grew up in Camillus and graduated from West Genesee High School in 1987.
“Those that invested in me here in Syracuse and along my journey, I'm here to really pay it forward, to give back to the community that put the common core values into my soul that I used today. Talk to them about, hey, you can be an admiral one day.”
Admiral Okon is based in Mississippi where he’s in charge of the Naval Meteorology and Oceanography command. His main focus is collecting data about the ocean and keeping the Navy fleets safe.
“We sense the physical environment, ocean and atmosphere, from the bottom of the ocean to the stars. A plane doesn't fly, a ship or submarine do not sail without naval oceanography. We know more about the surface of the moon than we do about the bottom of the ocean. So getting that data out of the ocean, processing it, predicting it, and getting it back to submarines and others that operate in the ocean.”
But Okon didn’t originally plan on dedicating his life to the Navy. He decided to attend SUNY Maritime College, and quickly found that his work felt more like a passion than a job. Okon says now he feels it’s his job to develop character in people in and out of uniform. He says the past 27 years have helped him both personally and professionally, and it feels like a family.
"I had no intention of going past four years. There's a sense of belonging in something bigger than yourself. That's what I think what appeals to young people nowdays, is that you can come into the navy family...yes, it's huge at 300,000 plus...but it truly is a family of brothers and sisters.”
Okon also spent time visiting Syracuse University ROTC leadership and cadets, as well as Chancellor Kent Syverud about the resources available to veterans. Okon says he’s "giddy" about visiting home. Last weekend, he was proud to join the West Genesee High School marching band on the football field. He also plans on going apple picking, and stopping at the Dinosaur Bar-B-Que.