Capt. Keith Ropella is the new commanding officer of the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Polar Star, succeeding Capt. William Woityra, who has been assigned to the Oceania Policy Division chief at U.S. Indo-Pacific Command in Honolulu.
Vice Adm. Andrew Tiongson, Coast Guard Pacific Area commander, presided over the command change July 11 at the Maritime Museum in Vallejo, California.
Ropella, who previously worked at the Office of Navigation Systems at Coast Guard Headquarters, takes charge of a soon-to-be upgraded Polar Star. The country’s sole heavy icebreaker is being outfitted with newer “machinery monitoring and controlling and propulsion power systems during the dry dock maintenance period to improve reliability and align the 46-year-old cutter with the modern fleet,” according to the USCG.
“It has been an incredible honor to have served these fine men and women as Polar Star’s commanding officer,” Woityra said. “This team has made tremendous sacrifices, but never shied from our critical calling to operate in the most remote and hostile environments on the planet. We have accomplished so much over the last two years because of this incredible team.”
The cutter’s 155 crew members travel to Antarctica every year to support the U.S. Antarctic Program and National Science Foundation, cutting through very thick ice to provide a pathway for vessels carrying vital supplies to McMurdo Station, Scott-Amundsen South Pole Station and other international stations.