The Coast Guard cutter Polar Star is scheduled to hold a change of command ceremony, Thursday at 10:00 a.m., aboard the cutter at Base Seattle.
Vice Adm. Charles W. Ray, Coast Guard Pacific Area commander, will preside over the ceremony where Capt. Matthew R. Walker will assume the duties and responsibilities as commanding officer of Polar Star from Capt. George E. Pellissier.
Capt. Walker is reporting from the Afloat Training Group San Diego where he served as the Coast Guard liaison officer. He has served onboard 10 cutters, including a buoy tender in Guam and a patrol boat in Miami. He has also been an exchange officer in a U.S. Navy Frigate, and the executive officer aboard a high endurance cutter. He is a qualified surface warfare officer and a permanent cutterman. Capt. Walker first served aboard Polar Star as the operations officer 2002-2004.
Capt. Pellissier, a Monson, Mass., native, graduated from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in 1987 with a degree in naval architecture and marine engineering, and holds master’s degrees in marine engineering and mechanical engineering. He has served aboard six cutters, three times aboard Polar Star during which time he served as the commanding officer, executive officer, and engineering officer. Capt. Pellissier also served an ice pilot for the Russian icebreaker Vladimir Ignatyuk during the 2012 and 2013 resupply of McMurdo Station, Antarctica. He holds a U.S. Coast Guard Master Mariner’s license and is a certified scuba diving instructor. Capt. Pellissier is retiring from the Coast Guard after 27 years of service.
During his tour aboard Polar Star, Capt. Pellissier led the 399′ cutter through its reactivation period following seven years of care taker status. After reactivation, Polar Star traveled to the Arctic to conduct ice trials before commencing an intensive crew training cycle. Capt. Pellissier then led the cutter and crew on Operation Deep Freeze 2014, the annual resupply of McMurdo Station, Antarctica.
The change-of-command ceremony is a revered military tradition, which formally restates the continuity and authority of command. It is a formal custom conducted before the assembled crew, and confirms to the men and women of the unit that the authority of command is maintained. The ceremony is a transfer of total responsibility, authority and accountability from one individual to another.
Commissioned in 1976, Polar Star is currently the only heavy ice breaker in service in the United States. The ship was built by Lockheed Shipbuilding and Construction Company of Seattle, along with her sister ship, Polar Sea. The cutter’s missions include close ice escort and logistics support of high latitude outposts. Polar Star also conducts search and rescue and supports scientific research in the Antarctic and Arctic regions.