Cmdr. William Woityra
Domestic and Polar Icebreaking Mission
Coast Guard Headquarters
In high school, I knew I wanted to serve in the mil- itary but was uncertain of which branch. When I
found out about the Coast Guard’s humanitarian and
environmental missions, I knew that was the right
service for me.
I graduated from the Coast Guard Academy in
1999 and was assigned to the cutter Polar Star, where
I served as a deck watch officer and marine science
officer. I was astounded by some of the wildlife I saw
during my various voyages throughout the country.
I was able to do a few Arctic deployments while on
the Polar Star, and those missions, which focused on
biology and chemistry, really shaped the future of my
Coast Guard career.
From there, I became the executive officer of Thunder
Bay, a 140-foot icebreaking tug. I then joined the international ice patrol and became the commanding officer
of Neah Bay, a 140-foot icebreaking tug homeported in
Cleveland. That was an absolutely extraordinary mission, cutting ice in the Great Lakes area.
I then worked in the U.S. Embassy in Malta, giving advice on maritime safety and security concerns.
From there, I headed back to Seattle to serve as the
operations officer for the Coast Guard Cutter Healy.
This was a fitting assignment that brought together my
icebreaking experience with my background in oceanography. We made it all the way to the North Pole in
2015, which is a memory I will never forget. It was
the first time an unaccompanied U.S. surface ship had
made it to the top of the world.
I’m currently serving as the program manager for
domestic and polar icebreaking at Coast Guard headquarters in Washington. It’s been enlightening to have
a broader perspective, and to see from a whole-of-Coast
Guard and whole-of-government approach how our
missions support everything.
Being here, back in a staff role, has given me a
perspective of all the moving parts that support every
decision. I am now right in the middle of deliberations
I would have never imagined six months ago.
I am thrilled every day that I still have the opportunity
to be part of this organization and having the neat chances to go to the places and do the things the Coast Guard
has enabled me to do. I never would have imagined when
I was in high school that these opportunities would have
presented themselves to me. I’m really glad these were the
choices I made and look forward to the future.
It’s a really exciting time to be involved in Coast
Guard icebreaking. With the support of President Barack
Obama, and Congress, it looks like we are going to recapitalize our icebreaking fleet and it’s really exciting to be
at headquarters right now to be part of the teams that are
setting requirements for the acquisition. n
“We [the Coast Guard icebreaker Healy] made it all the way to the North
Pole in 2015, which is a memory I will never forget. It was the first time an
unaccompanied U.S. surface ship had made it to the top of the world.”
WWW.SEAPOWERMAGAZINE.ORG 64 SEAPOWER / NOVEMBER 2016
Cmdr. William Woityra, right, then-operations officer aboard
the Coast Guard Cutter Healy, meets Stefan Schwarze,
captain of the German icebreaker Polarstern, at the North
Pole Sept. 7, 2015, on an ice floe between the two ships.