The U.S. Coast Guard lived up to its motto of being “Always Ready” in 2011 – from interdicting the first drug sub in Caribbean waters to providing humanitarian relief to a drought-stricken island nation, Coast Guard crews had a remarkable year. As 2011 winds down, Compass brings to you “Your Coast Guard in 2011” – a series highlighting the top stories, missions and cases from around the nation. Continue to visit us this week to read about the remaining districts and the extraordinary men and women of the U.S. Coast Guard.
Yesterday we took you to the Pacific Islands, but today we take a drastic turn north to the Arctic and the men and women of the 17th Coast Guard District.
Written by 17th Coast Guard District Public Affairs.
With an increasing number of eyes on the Arctic, Coast Guardsmen spent 2011 testing capabilities, building partnerships and rapport with Native Alaskans and keeping a vigilant watch above the Arctic Circle in some of the most challenging marine operation environments on the planet.
Cutters, aircraft respond
Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf, the first of eight planned national security cutters, conducted its first Bering Sea patrol in Alaskan waters to safeguard the lives of those operating in Western Alaska and protect Alaska’s abundant living marine resources. Patrols were also conducted by the Kodiak-based Coast Guard Cutters Munro and Alex Haley as well as four other West Coast cutters
The crew of the ice-breaking Coast Guard Cutter Healy supported scientific experiments in the Arctic Ocean. As part of its seven-month Arctic West patrol, Healy worked closely with the Canadian coast guard ship Louis S. St. Laurent to further map the extended continental shelf through underwater surveys.
Kodiak-based HC-130 Hercules airplane crews conducted arctic domain awareness flights between March and November. The aircrews surveyed North Slope coastal villages for erosion and assessed the ice and vessel traffic. They also worked with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, supporting air-sampling research over the Brooks Range to help scientists understand more about the region’s natural emissions.
Operation Arctic Shield
Operation Arctic Shield was conducted above the Arctic Circle from April through September testing several Coast Guard boats and aircraft and involving numerous state agencies. More than 250 Coast Guardsmen deployed to support this operation where they honed their skills in performing Arctic operations to better support the region.
Coast Guard Cutter Spar, with Alaska National Guard and industry resources, tested a new cold weather emergency towing system north of the Arctic Circle which is a vital capability in performing the service’s search and rescue mission. The Coast Guard, Air Force, Alaska Air National Guard and North Slope Borough conducted a two-day search and rescue exercise off the coast of Barrow to assess joint agency capabilities during a simulated marine casualty. These joint agency efforts are fundamental to ensure each agency knows its capabilities and can work successfully together in this remote region.
Native Alaskans have survived the harsh elements and remoteness on the North Slope for hundreds of years. They are vitally interested in the opportunities and the risks that come with increased activity in the Arctic.
Coast Guard Auxiliarists, which make up the service’s volunteer force, educated more than 450 Barrow students about boating safety as part of a broad effort to build relationships and understanding in the region. In addition, a team of doctors administered care to more than 250 patients ranging from adolescents to elder leaders as well as performing four minor surgeries. A team of Public Health Service veterinarians also cared for more than 100 dogs and cats in several remote North Slope villages.
International partnerships continued to grow with the signing of an Arctic search and rescue agreement in May. This brought together leaders from seven Arctic nations: Canada, Denmark, Finland, Norway, the Russian Federation and Sweden, assigning to each nation a particular region of the Arctic in which to maintain search and rescue responsibility, coordination and control.
As 2011 comes to a close, activity from the world’s Arctic nations continues to significantly grow, especially in the sectors of commercial shipping, exploration and tourism. The Coast Guard will continue to test its capabilities and hone response efforts by maintaining close working relationships with Native Alaskans, exercising international agreements and overcoming the logistical and resource challenges that result from operating in remote locations.