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Lineman going way south for the winter

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Dan Roche, a lineman for Kasson's electric utility, will leave Sept. 30 for a six-month job in Antarctica. Roche says he doesn't mind the cold.

KASSON — Dan Roche will be flying out of Rochester on Sept. 30 bound for the ends of the earth. In his case, the southern end.

Roche is headed to Antarctica to work for Raytheon as a lineman foreman for six months. Raytheon provides support to scientists conducting research in the US Antarctic Program (USAP), which is funded and managed by the National Science Foundation.

Roche has been working at the city of Kasson’s electric utility since 1999. He found out about the job in Antarctica through a veterans’ website. Roche was in the U.S. Army for eight years and served as a tank mechanic for the 24th Infantry Division out of Fort Stewart, Ga.

Roche said he doesn’t mind the cold; "I actually got heatstroke over in the Gulf War in ’90, ’91," he said.

Roche will travel to Denver for orientation and training, before heading south. From Denver, Roche flies to Los Angeles, then Auckland, New Zealand, then on to Christchurch, New Zealand, where he will receive his extreme cold weather gear, "… then another eight-hour flight to the ice," he said.

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Roche will be stationed in McMurdo Station for the six-month stint. This time of year — austral summer season — is the balmiest time in the earth’s southernmost continent. Temperatures should be between zero and 43 degrees Fahrenheit, "… without the wind," Roche said.

To qualify for work in the "… coldest, driest, windiest place on earth," Roche said, he had to have a thorough physical and was tested for, "… everything under the sun." He had to have a tetanus shot and a pneumonia shot and then will receive a flu shot in Denver.

Roche has four children, three of whom are excited about his trip and one daughter "… who’s having a hard time with it," he said.

When he returns home in March, his old job as lineman foreman will be waiting. The Kasson City Council granted Roche a temporary leave from Kasson electric utility here. Council members agreed Roche might learn things working in the extreme conditions of Antarctica that would be beneficial to know in Minnesota winters.

Also Roche’s passport will have a stamp on it few people can brag about.

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