Heading south for the winter: The star on the Star

This blog is part of a series following Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star on their journey to Antarctica in support of Operation Deep Freeze 2015.

Written by Petty Officer 1st Class George Degener

Petty Officer 2nd Class Dustin Tedder, a storekeeper aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star, configures sound and lighting equipment for karaoke night in the ship's hangar while underway in the Ross Sea, Jan. 31, 2015. Tedder uses his own equipment to provide morale events for the ship's crew. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class George Degener.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Dustin Tedder, a storekeeper aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star, configures sound and lighting equipment for karaoke night in the ship’s hangar while underway in the Ross Sea, Jan. 31, 2015. Tedder uses his own equipment to provide morale events for the ship’s crew. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class George Degener.

For the crew of a Coast Guard cutter, morale is vitally important to successful mission execution, and the ability to rebound from stressful setbacks. On Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star, the word morale is synonymous with Tedder.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Dustin Tedder, a storekeeper aboard Polar Star and a native of Dallas, Texas, is president of the cutter’s morale committee. He organizes events for the crew, including: karaoke, bingo, movie screenings in the ship’s hangar and holiday parties. He also operates the ship’s store, where crewmembers can purchase unit apparel, personal items, snacks, beverages and small souvenirs emblazoned with Polar Star’s seal.

“He really is the ultimate shipmate,” said Chief Warrant Officer Cory Jones, support officer aboard Polar Star. “He’s the kind of person that if you ask anything of him, and it’s within his power to do it, he’ll make sure it’s done and done right.”

His true passion is hosting karaoke nights. In preparation, Tedder assembles screens and a lighting truss in the hangar, which requires a couple hours. Using his own personal equipment, he gives his shipmates a place to perform their favorite songs and put aside the pressures of standing watch, galley duty, or studying for an impending qualification board.

“I love what he does for the crew,” said Fireman Amanda Levasseur. “I look forward to every Saturday night, especially because he and I do a great duet of ‘Paradise by the Dashboard Lights’.”

A Coast Guardsman for almost 13 years, Tedder began performing karaoke shows while stationed in Seattle, and continued to entertained crowds while stationed in Puerto Rico, Texas and Hawaii. His skills are highly admired, providing him opportunities such as managing the enlisted club in Honolulu and performing at the 14th Coast Guard District Coast Guard Day celebration in front of more than 1,000 service members and their families.

“I do love the attention that I get being up there in front of people,” said Tedder. “Really though, it’s all about the crew. We are underway for so long, they need something; a place where they have a lot of fun and blow off a little steam.”

Petty Officer 2nd Class Dustin Tedder, a storekeeper aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star, configures karaoke equipment in the ship's hangar, while underway in the Ross Sea, Jan. 31, 2015. Tedder uses his own equipment to provide morale events for the ship's crew. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class George Degener.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Dustin Tedder, a storekeeper aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star, configures karaoke equipment in the ship’s hangar, while underway in the Ross Sea, Jan. 31, 2015. Tedder uses his own equipment to provide morale events for the ship’s crew. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class George Degener.

Crewmembers of Polar Star aren’t the only ones enjoying Tedder’s shows during Operation Deep Freeze 2015, the annual logistics support mission for the U.S. Antarctic Program, which is managed by the National Science Foundation, or NSF. On the clear evening of Jan. 18, 2015, the sun’s rays shone down upon NSF’s McMurdo Station; inside Gallagher’s Pub the low murmur of voices from exuberant scientists, support personnel, and crewmembers of Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star filled the room.

Bass notes emanated from speakers mounted on the small stage, met by cheers from the audience, and red and green lasers illuminated the room as Tedder walked across the stage. This was the first time that this highly skilled entertainer put on a show there. Tedder planned to host a show for the personnel of McMurdo for more than a year.

“When we were down here last year, for Deep Freeze 2014, I had talked to event organizers about what I wanted to do, but wasn’t able it make it happen,” said Tedder. “This year, I’ve been emailing back and forth and we set it up. It wasn’t the biggest show I’ve ever done, but performing in Antarctica is definitely an experience I’ll never forget.”

These events also come as a sacrifice to Tedder’s personal time. Set up and break down for movie and karaoke night takes hours of work once his duties as a storekeeper are finished. While the ship was moored at McMurdo Station, Tedder spent hours of his liberty time opening the ship’s store for dozens of U.S. Antarctic Program personnel and researchers who toured the ship and wanted a memento of their visit to the Nation’s only heavy icebreaker in operation.

“Most everything he does is after hours, on his own time,” said Jones. “All the behind the scenes work that goes into making an event successful. He even came back from being on [vacation] to help out with the ship’s change-of-command ceremony this year. He brings his own special energy and spirit to each event we have.”

Scheduled to transfer from Polar Star in 2016, Tedder doesn’t know what’s next in his career. Married to his high school sweetheart, he and his family will be assigned by the Coast Guard based on their requests balanced with the needs of the service. Wherever the next destination may be, afloat or on land, Tedder’s future shipmates will be lucky enough to experience what Polar Star’s crew has for another year.

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