Science Mission: Behind the Scenes

Petty Officer 2nd Class Jerry Speicher, a boatswain's mate aboard the
Coast Guard Cutter Healy, throws a smallboat line to Petty Officer 1st
Class Kenneth Cook, also a boatswain's mate aboard the Healy, during
operations in the Arctic Ocean Sept. 12, 2013. The smallboat crew left
the cutter to retrieve an unmanned aircraft system used during a
simulated oil spill response exercise. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty
Officer 3rd Class Grant DeVuyst.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Jerry Speicher, a boatswain’s mate aboard the
Coast Guard Cutter Healy, throws a smallboat line to Petty Officer 1st
Class Kenneth Cook, also a boatswain’s mate aboard the Healy, during
operations in the Arctic Ocean Sept. 12, 2013. The smallboat crew left
the cutter to retrieve an unmanned aircraft system used during a
simulated oil spill response exercise.

Story and photos by Petty Officer 3rd Class Grant DeVuyst

Most Coast Guardsmen will tell you that running a Coast Guard cutter is a full time job. Engines and generators need constant attention, hungry mouths need to be fed, the bridge needs someone to keep the cutter headed in the right direction, and don’t even ask a deckhand about the constant battle between salt and paint.

Aside from the day-to-day maintenance and operational work required to keep the vessel afloat, Coast Guard cutter crews also perform various missions of the service, like search and rescue, law enforcement and environmental protection.

Aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Healy, one of the nation’s two operational high-latitude icebreakers, the crew has a very unique mission to complete: assisting a variety of scientific passengers in handling their sensitive, bulky gear to conduct experiments and exercises at sea.

As part of the Coast Guard Arctic Shield 2013 mission, the Healy crew welcomed aboard a special group of scientists, researchers and engineers. The team made the trip to the Far North for a multi-agency simulated oil spill exercise, coordinated by the Coast Guard’s Research and Development Center, to support the Coast Guard’s Arctic strategy.

To conduct the exercise, which included five different cutting-edge technologies, the participants brought aboard equipment of all shapes and sizes.

So, when the Coast Guard National, Atlantic, Gulf and Pacific Strike Teams wanted to move a 600-pound oil skimmer into the water to test its capability in the icy Arctic Ocean, to whom did they turn? The Healy’s skilled and highly experienced deck department, of course.

“The Strike Teams are the subject matter experts at the skimmer, but we are helping them out to get everything set up,” said Chief Warrant Officer Juan Rivera, Healy deck department’s first lieutenant. “At the same time, we’ve got guys below deck making sure the cranes and other machinery work. Everybody has a little piece in the puzzle.”

As the Healy crew sought and found various ice conditions for the different technologies to be tested, the deck department kept representatives out in the bitter cold, in layers of warm clothing, to move everything safely on and off the cutter.

Seaman Aaron Lopez and Seaman Alex Cason, members of the Coast Guard
Cutter Healy deck department, help handle the hose for an oil skimming
system during a simulated oil spill response exercise in the Arctic
Ocean Sept. 12, 2013. The crew of the Healy, a 420-foot icebreaker,
augments the work force of science and research passengers aboard the
cutter. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Grant DeVuyst.


Seaman Aaron Lopez and Seaman Alex Cason, members of the Coast Guard
Cutter Healy deck department, help handle the hose for an oil skimming
system during a simulated oil spill response exercise in the Arctic
Ocean Sept. 12, 2013. The crew of the Healy, a 420-foot icebreaker,
augments the work force of science and research passengers aboard the
cutter.

Not only did the Healy’s crew help maneuver gear, but they also helped in launching and recovering it. The exercise also included the first simultaneous flight of two unmanned aircraft systems from a Coast Guard cutter, and when the aircraft made controlled landings into the frigid water, the Healy’s smallboat crew jumped into action.

“We wanted to find out how applicable UAS technology would be in Arctic oil spill recovery,” said Andrew Niccolai, Ph.D., a research scientist at the Research and Development Center. “The crew is an essential part of the test. They position the cutter in favorable winds and are an integral component for both launching and recovery procedures.”

Working long days in one of the world’s harshest environments, the Healy crew lived up to the Coast Guard’s motto, “Semper Paratus,” or Always Ready, to advance the United States’ ability to perform environmental stewardship and pollution response efforts in the emerging Arctic.

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