Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf participates in Operation Northern Edge, Base Kodiak provides support

GULF OF ALASKA - Two crewmen aboard a Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf small boat signal the crew of the USS Decatur during an at-sea exercise June 2011. The cutter's crew is part of the joint service Northern Edge exercise. U.S. Navy photo.

GULF OF ALASKA - Two crewmen aboard a Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf small boat signal the crew of the USS Decatur during an at-sea exercise June 2011. The cutter's crew is part of the joint service Northern Edge exercise. U.S. Navy photo.

The crew of the Legend-class cutter Bertholf serve aboard the first national security cutter built. It was the first of the NSCs to test their new capabilities such as stern launching a Special Purpose Craft-Law Enforcement. They are the first NSC crew to conduct an Alaska patrol, during which they conducted fisheries boardings to ensure compliance with federal regulations. Their most recent NSC first – participating in the joint service exercise Operation Northern Edge.

The exercise brings together a diverse, joint team in Alaska, to complete the validation of tactics, training and procedures that address contingency response throughout the Asian Pacific region, according to Lt. Gen. Dana Atkins, the Alaskan Command commander.

GULF OF ALASKA - The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf stems toward on of several Navy vessels taking part in Operation Northern Edge June 2011. Thirteen vessels including the Bertholf, Navy destroyers and cruisers are participating in the bi-annual exercise. U.S. Navy photo.

GULF OF ALASKA - The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf stems toward on of several Navy vessels taking part in Operation Northern Edge June 2011. Thirteen vessels including the Bertholf, Navy destroyers and cruisers are participating in the bi-annual exercise. U.S. Navy photo.

Operation Northern Edge 2011 began June 13 and will continue through June 24. The exercise is held every two years and encompasses all five services. More than 6,000 personnel, 13 ships, and 100 planes are involved. It is the largest exercise in Alaska. The war-games exercise is an opportunity for the services to fine tune their skills and inter-operability. Northern Edge is designed to test the services ability to respond to a major act of war or attack on the United States.

The equipment brought to bear for the exercise is impressive and high-end. The Navy is using their new E/A-18G fighter jammer aircraft. The Coast Guard has likewise brought their newest platform – the Bertholf. The Legend-class cutters are the most technically advanced cutters in the Coast Guard fleet. Their design provides better sea keeping, greater endurance, the ability to stern and side launch small boats and crews, as well as carry two helicopters or unmanned aerial vehicles. It is the first cutter with a dual hangar. The cutter is designed with a 30-year lifespan in mind.

Operation Northern Edge is an opportunity for the Bertholf crew to share best practices and experiences with their Navy counterparts as they work together to achieve the mission. The crews have conducted small boat operations, gunnery exercises, aircraft tracking and other maneuvers. The Bertholf crew is working with the 500-foot Arleigh Burke-class guided-missle destroyer USS Decatur (DDG73) and the 567-foot Aegis-class guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Erie (CG70) in the Gulf of Alaska.

Marines assigned to Marine Air Control Squadron-1 discuss their participation in Exercise Northern Edge 11 at a three-dimensional air defense radar and communication satellite site here June 14, 2011. Photo by Marine Cpl. Marionne T. Mangrum.

KODIAK, Alaska - Marines assigned to Marine Air Control Squadron-1 discuss their participation in Exercise Northern Edge 11 at a three-dimensional air defense radar and communication satellite site here June 14, 2011. Photo by Marine Cpl. Marionne T. Mangrum.

“I’ve said many times before that we have all domains of warfare in Alaska,” General Atkins said. “There is the Gulf of Alaska for a large maritime presence. A large interior landmass with about 1.5 million acres. The air space we use here is 65,000 miles and [ranges from] surface to 23,000 feet, and the weather goes from fantastic to ‘oh no’.”

The Bertholf is not the only Coast Guard contributor to Operation Northern Edge. Coast Guard Base Kodiak is currently home to Marine Air Control Squadron One, from Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., as part of the exercise. With a camp set up on Jewel Beach the Marines’ are using radar to provide information through data links to the exercise  “aggressors”, the Air Force F-15 pilots, who are facing off against the Navy F-18 pilots, who are defending the fleet. The Marines are taking the opportunity to leave their mark in Kodiak by working with the Coast Guard Base Support Unit to clean up the Kodiak City Cemetery Saturday. The Base Support Unit personnel did some work June 10, but look forward to the assistance the Marines will provide righting head stones, mending crosses, filling in sunken gravesites and finishing any necessary weeding and debris removal.

We appreciate the effort of our sister services and will continue to serve proudly alongside them in peace and war time to protect the sovereignty of the United States, from the fishing grounds of Alaska to the graves of those who’ve come before us. Semper Paratus!

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