Coast Guard, agency partners leverage resources to meet Alaska missions

Mark Wagner, a member of the U.S. Coast Guard 17th District’s response advisory team, instructs the crew of the Canadian coast guard ship Sir Wilfrid Laurier on the correct method for deploying a U.S. Coast Guard Vessel of Opportunity Skilling System during a joint exercise near Teller, July 18, 2013. The exercise marked the first time a Canadian coast guard crew deployed U.S. Coast Guard VOSS equipment in the Arctic. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Grant DeVuyst.

Mark Wagner, a member of the U.S. Coast Guard 17th District’s response advisory team, instructs the crew of the Canadian coast guard ship Sir Wilfrid Laurier on the correct method for deploying a U.S. Coast Guard Vessel of Opportunity Skilling System during a joint exercise near Teller, July 18, 2013. The exercise marked the first time a Canadian coast guard crew deployed U.S. Coast Guard VOSS equipment in the Arctic. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Grant DeVuyst.

In a constrained budget environment, broadening partnerships to achieve mission success and keep Alaskans safe has created a stronger foundation of mutual respect between response agencies throughout the state. By working more closely together, agencies have a better understanding of their response partners, partner capabilities and the benefits of working together to effectively leverage limited resources and available personnel.

With that in mind, Coast Guard 17th District personnel made broadening partnerships with fellow response agencies a priority.

“We routinely work with our fellow response agencies throughout Alaska to accomplish our missions while protecting people and the environment,” said Capt. Daniel Travers, chief of incident management, Coast Guard 17th District. “Building these relationships is extremely beneficial, especially when you consider the current budget constraints and the logistical challenges being faced by agencies throughout Alaska.”

The Coast Guard works with federal, state, local and tribal agencies to combine efforts and pool resources to accomplish mission objectives. Through unity of effort, each agency serves as a force multiplier for their partners, which allows responders to maximize their capabilities.

“Coast Guard operations in Alaska require precise and ongoing domain awareness of activities taking place throughout the state,” said Rear Adm. Thomas Ostebo, commander, Coast Guard 17th District. “Leveraging our partnerships with our federal, state, local and tribal partners allows us to complete our statutory missions and maintain our proficiency and effectiveness.”

A recent example of teamwork occurred when crewmembers aboard the Coast Guard Cutter SPAR, the Canadian coast guard ship Sir Wilfrid Laurier, the City of Nome and personnel from the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation conducted a joint exercise near Port Clarence. The exercise focused on the deployment of a U.S. Coast Guard Vessel of Opportunity Skimming System from the Sir Wilfrid Laurier and testing of Alaska’s Nome-based Emergency Towing System. The deployments demonstrated the capabilities of each system and allowed the personnel to maintain their proficiency with the systems and strengthen the relationships between the three agencies.

“The Department of Environmental Conservation is always excited for opportunities to train and exercise the new emergency towing system recently placed in Nome with the city. As always we are looking at ways to improve and make the system more efficient and safer for the people who may be deploying the ETS under less than favorable conditions,” said John Brown, environmental program specialist with DEC’s Spill Prevention and Response Division. “Exercises like this are crucial to that process. Without the Coast Guards and City of Nome’s support, this would not be possible. We appreciate all their support and are thankful for this exercise.

The crew of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter SPAR works with the crew of the Canadian coast guard ship Sir Wilfrid Laurier to transfer a U.S. Coast Guard Vessel of Opportunity Skimming System between the vessels following an exercise near Teller, July 18, 2013. The exercise allowed crews to compare operating practices, maintain their proficiency with the system, and strengthen the relationship between the two services. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Grant Devuyst

The crew of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter SPAR works with the crew of the Canadian coast guard ship Sir Wilfrid Laurier to transfer a U.S. Coast Guard Vessel of Opportunity Skimming System between the vessels following an exercise near Teller, July 18, 2013. The exercise allowed crews to compare operating practices, maintain their proficiency with the system, and strengthen the relationship between the two services. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Grant Devuyst

Another instance saw a Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew providing transportation for two members of the Fort Richardson based 716th Explosives Ordinance division, 2nd Engineering Brigade. The EOD personnel had received a report about unexploded ordinance near Chignik, Alaska and had been tasked with locating and destroying the device.

After detonating the device the EOD crew collected samples of the device for forensic analysis.

The Coast Guard also opened its 2013 Arctic Shield forward operating location in Kotzebue on July 12. The Coast Guard leveraged its partnership with the Alaska Army National Guard to utilize their hangar in Kotzebue to base a forward deployed MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew.

“We have facilities in locations around the state to meet local, state, and federal needs in the event of emergencies or urgent contingencies,” said Major Gen. Thomas H. Katkus, adjutant general of the Alaska National Guard and commissioner of the State of Alaska Department of Military & Veterans Affairs. “The Alaska National Guard’s hangar in Kotzebue is a great facility that is positioned to benefit multiple users. Tremendous synergy is achieved in sharing this space with the Coast Guard. Our relationship greatly benefits the state while simultaneously providing services and safety assets that better protect and help Alaskans.”

“Leveraging our partnerships will continue to be a priority for the Coast Guard as we all collectively work to protect mariners, the environment and our nation’s interests,” said Ostebo.

For more recent examples of how the Coast Guard is leveraging partnerships to benefit Alaskans, please click on the stories below or visit the Coast Guard 17th District website here

Coast Guard and Army EOD dispose of ordinance near Chignik

Coast Guard, University of Washington conduct Arctic Domain Awareness flight

Federal, state, local tribal and industry leaders meet for Arctic spill of National Significance seminar

U.S., Canada complete joint search and rescue exercise in Prince Rupert, B.C.

Coast Guard helps deploy seismic sensors in Southeast Alaska