ALBANY â" Meteorology always fascinated David Titley.
As a young child growing up, he built a weather station in his backyard on Grand Avenue in Niskayuna. But the 1976 graduate of Niskayuna High School has come a long way from checking town temperature readings.
On Thursday, Titley, 53, returned to the Capital Region for the first time in 25 years as Rear Adm. David Titley.
The Navy officer is an oceanographer and navigator who is responsible for keeping the nation's 283 military ships safe at sea.
He is also assistant deputy chief of Naval Operations for Information Dominance. Asked about that title, Titley said he uses the latest technologies to decipher and map the world's water so the United States can maintain naval superiority.
"Every piece of water has its own terrain, and there are different temperatures," Titley said Thursday during a visit to the USS Slater near the Port of Albany.
Titley came to see the World War II destroyer escort as his first stop in a two-day outreach effort. The Navy's "50/50 program" sends 50 senior Navy officers to 50 cities to discuss its missions.
"Many people in America know we have a Navy, but just don't know what the Navy does," Titley said. Bill Scharoun, 89, a World War II Navy veteran of the Pacific Theater, led the officer on a tour of the ship.
"We don't get too many admirals," Scharoun said.
Titley, who lives outside Washington, said he was impressed by the area's robust technology sector. His itinerary included trips to GlobalFoundries in Malta and the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering at the University at Albany.
Titley also planned visits to Schenectady City Hall, the Albany County Courthouse, the Albany Stratton VA Medical Center, the Round Lake Fire Department, the Chamber of Schenectady County and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy.
Frank Mazza, chief of the Round Lake Fire Department, said Titley's visit was an indication of region's growing profile. "I would think it will open a lot of people's eyes as to what's going on here," Mazza said.
Titley joined the Naval Reserve Officers Training Commissioning program in 1980. He served as navigator aboard USS Farragut, a guided-missile destroyer, and oceanographer aboard the USS Carl Vinson, a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, and others. He's earned three degrees in meteorology, and directed the Navy's Task Force Climate Change in 2009.
The Navy is playing a vital role the Middle East, Titley said. The Navy Seals killed Osama bin Laden, and more than 10,000 sailors have deployed on the ground into Iraq and Afghanistan, he said.
The Capital Region has a rich naval history, including the USS Albany, a Los Angeles-class submarine.
In 1965, Congress declared the village of Whitehall the birthplace of the Navy.
Some 500 American patriots built several naval vessels in Whitehall in 1776 that were used in the Battle of Valcour Island, regarded as one of the first naval battles of the American Revolution.
Thousands of sailors have trained at the Kesselring Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory in West Milton, which opened in 1955. The site's two-uranium-fueled nuclear reactors develop propulsion systems for the Navy.
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