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My Coast Guard
Commentary | Nov. 30, 2023

'I 100% fell in love with being underway'— Why Petty Officer 1st Class Tyler Deitrick serves at sea

By AJ Pulkkinen, MyCG staff writer

Editor’s Note: This is the ninth in a series of articles where cuttermen discuss why they go to sea.    

Name: Petty Officer 1st Class Tyler Deitrick 

Rating: Culinary Specialist (CS) 

Age: 34 

Hometown: San Diego, CA 

Personal: Married for almost five years to Yeoman Second Class Melissa Deitrick, who recently came off active duty after nine years and is in the Coast Guard Reserve  

Joined Coast Guard: May 2011 Boot Camp Company: F-185 

Sea time to date: 11yrs 9 months 

Previous units: Coast Guard Cutter Kimball (WMSL 756) homeported in Honolulu, Hawaii; Coast Guard Cutter Anvil (WLIC 75301) homeported in Charleston, South Carolina; Coast Guard Cutter Ahi (WPB 87364) homeported in Honolulu, Hawaii; Coast Guard Cutter Munro (WHEC 724) homeported in Kodiak, Alaska 

Current assignment: Galley supervisor aboard Coast Guard Cutter James (WMSL 754) homeported in Charleston, South Carolina 

Why did you join the Coast Guard?    

I was a cook in the civilian sector for about 6 years before I joined. 

I joined at the age of 22 and specifically joined the Coast Guard just because it was, from my understanding, the best branch for cooks. And given my years of experience with working with other branches, I definitely made the right choice. 

The Coast Guard is a smaller branch, but that's kind of a good thing when it comes to cooking. We have a lot more freedom to be able to express ourselves, for lack of a better term, and not so much a rigid structure. 

Did you know you wanted to go underway right out of A school? 

No, no, I did not. My original game plan when I joined the Coast Guard was to do four years and then reenlist one time to hopefully get a reenlistment bonus, do a total of eight years and get out. And then use my GI Bill to go to actual culinary school. 

But I 100% fell in love with being underway, the experiences and the camaraderie and all the relationships that I built on my first ship.  

I still have two guys from that unit that are like my brothers. I keep in touch with them almost on a monthly basis, still talk to them all the time. It felt like I'd been friends with them longer than all my high school buddies who I’d known for years.  

The experiences that you go through underway, the good ones and the bad ones, the day-to-day stuff that you go through together, really bring you closer together. 

Do you remember a moment where you had a conscious decision to throw that ‘eight and out’ plan out the window and realize this is this is where you’re supposed to be? 

Probably when I went from my first unit to my second unit. 

My first unit, the 378', was one of the biggest cutters with the most amount of people. You had pretty much all the ratings onboard, so you got to see what everybody does. Then I went directly to the much smaller 87' with only eleven people.   

On a larger ship, everybody's kind of focused in on their one task and that's why we have all the ratings: everybody does their own part and that's what allows us to be successful. 

Whereas, at a smaller unit like an 87', everybody does everything. I could be cooking one minute and then the next minute I go out and I'm the boat deck captain or the cutter swimmer or whatever.  

And the two completely different worlds have the same essential outcome: we get the mission done. 

That was kind of the real turning point for me where I was like, “alright, yeah, this is what I wanna do for the rest of my time in the Coast Guard.” 

What motivates you in the galley? 

A long time ago when I was very young, one of the head chefs that I worked for explained cooking as the most selfless job you will ever do. 

If you are truly passionate about cooking, the amount of morale and almost instant gratification you can get from producing a good meal for people, especially underway, is what really sells it for me. 

I am here to do my absolute best, to provide the best meal that I can for the crew. The old saying that cooks are like the number one morale for the boat is 100% accurate. When people are happy, they come up after they're done eating, saying, “Hey, thanks. That was great. I really enjoyed it.”  

That's the thing that keeps you going. That's why I'm here. I'm doing it. They love it. Let's just keep rolling with it. 

What advice would you have for a young CS2 heading to their independent duty food service officer (IDFSO) job? 

IDFSO was definitely a challenge. The first six months are gonna be the hardest. It's getting used to the daily routines of having to go shopping at the grocery store and then come back and barely have enough time to cook lunch and then managing your paperwork on a daily basis. 

It really does take six months to a year to get into a groove to figure out everything, and everybody's gonna make mistakes. Nobody's perfect. 

You just have to work with your command. See if maybe on Tuesdays and Thursdays you don't necessarily need to cook breakfast, because the crews going to do PT in the mornings anyway. Then you can have some time to go to the grocery store and not be rushed to put out a meal. It's just finding the balance. 

And also working directly with your command. Even as an IDFSO, you are a junior paygrade, but you are in charge of a large budget. It's hard for some E5s to go directly to a master chief or a Lt. j.g. who might be in charge and be like, “I made a mistake, but this is how I'm gonna fix it.” You learn how to do it over time and come with some confidence. 

As an IDFSO, what kind of support network did you have? 

I was fortunate. Hawaii is not a big base, but there're lots of different units there. I had a master chief cook at the galley that was maybe a couple steps away. He was very open and if I ever had a question about anything, I could always go to him.  

The Coast Guard, as a whole, I will say has been pretty good about supporting IDFSOs. They understand that it's independent duty, but they tend to be in areas where they can have some form of a local support network of a higher-ranking CS if there're ever questions.  

We also have the portal. The CS page specifically has all kinds of job aids for every situation that you could ever run into. When I was independent duty, I was using the CS portal page pretty much almost on a daily basis because it can walk you through step by step for learning the paperwork and then actually implementing the paperwork. 

So even if you're in an area where you don't necessarily have the actual local support system there, you can start with the CS portal page. 

Now there’s also the Culinary Support Branch (CSB) from HSWL (Health, Safety and Work-Life Service Center). They have a Teams page where you can ask any question and keep up with policy. 

How would you compare your tours on the older cutters, CGC Munro and CGC Anvil, to your newer ships, CGC Ahi, CGC Kimball and CGC James? 

To be completely honest, the layout of the WMSL’s galley is not the greatest. It is very difficult to have more than say like two people in there at a time.  

The Coast Guard, though, was receptive when designing the new OPC (offshore patrol cutters) and the new polar security cutters that are coming out. They reached out to the fleet and we were all able to give our input and say like, “Hey, this this was a good idea, but it doesn't work out because of this and it's something to look into when creating the layout for galleys.” 

What's your biggest lesson learned from being underway?  

Nothing is permanent. Long days underway turn into short weeks. Turn into shorter months, turn into shorter patrols, turn into shorter tours. Your patrol schedule really does make time fly.  

Also, take every day and try to absorb as much knowledge as you can from as many people.  
You have the opportunity being around so many different ratings. Understanding what they do for certain situations can really help you diversify your career if you have a better understanding of what people do as a whole. 

My most difficult days underway brought me and my shipmates closer. It made us really appreciate each other more. There are hard times, but at the end of the day, you still have the guys and gals next to you and it just brings you closer and reinforces how important the people underway and the relationships that you build underway are. 

It really makes you understand that everybody's got their own stuff, their own issues that they're dealing with. You might get some bad news when you're at sea via email and it's even worse because there's nothing you can do about it. 

But it just it makes you appreciate people more. One person might be having a bad day, but everybody's a shipmate and you start to take care of each other better. 

What has been your best port call?  

My best port call was a little island in the Aleutian chain called Attu, Alaska. The last people that lived on the island were working at an old LORAN station for the Coast Guard. 

But when we went to Attu, the island was uninhabited. And it was kind of surreal just to be walking around and knowing that the only people on the island are us from the boat. We had to get small boated in because there wasn't a pier big enough for our cutter to moor up. They would ferry us in little groups at a time and you only got about like two or three hours and then you'd have to get back aboard so somebody else could go see it. 

It was the end of salmon season and there was a spot right where the river met the sea that I was able to actually catch some salmon with my bare hands that day. It was a quick catch and release — just long enough to grab it, kiss it, take a picture with it and send it on its way back out to sea. 

In the News:

“This is a challenge, and it is what you make of it.” — Why Petty Officer 1st Class Ashley Moulden serves at sea 

“This is where I belong.” — Why Petty Officer 1st Class Britney Cabrales serves at sea 

“What other crazy things can I do out here that I would never get to do anywhere else?” — Why Petty Officer 1st Class Benjamin Davis serves at sea  

“An experience you’re not gonna get anywhere else.” — Why Petty Officer 1st Class Benjamin Yoder serves at sea  

Special edition of Why I Serve at Sea — Captain Patrick Culver, Gold Ancient Mariner #16 

“The impact we have globally and in our communities” - Why CPO Gentry serves at sea  

“The ocean is your office” Why Chief Llamas serves at sea   

"I like a challenge" - Why CPO Sharina Komen serves at sea