The Last Frontier: Alaska’s Reservists

Rear Adm. Dan Abel congratulates Petty Officer 2nd Class Jennifer Stubblefield, a reservist stationed at Station Valdez, for earning boatcrew qualifications.  U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Rear Adm. Dan Abel congratulates Petty Officer 2nd Class Jennifer Stubblefield, a reservist stationed at Station Valdez, for earning boatcrew qualifications. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

If you take mobilizing on a moment’s notice to the unpredictable weather and conditions that are commonplace in the vastness of the Last Frontier, and add that to the Coast Guard’s motto of Always Ready, you get Alaska’s Coast Guard Reserve. It’s during adverse moments of amplified operational conditions reserve members are called upon to provide the Coast Guard with the necessary tools and additional staffing.

One such mission occurred during a recent snow storm that blanketed the waters of Prince William Sound. A pilot reported he had lost his engine and would be forced to set his plane down. This was the last communication the pilot would be able to make. The Coast Guard sprung into action and would mobilize aircrews from Air Station Kodiak, the cutters Mustang and Sycamore, a Station Valdez, boatcrew, and reservists across Alaska. While the outcome of the case was unfavorable, the rapid mobilization of these units success was in part due to the steadfastness of Alaska’s Reserve force.

The Coast Guard Reserves in Alaska offer similar support compared to their counterparts in the lower 48. However, one of the major differences is the geographic challenge that make up the more than 44,000 miles of coastline to protect, seasonal limitations, and hazards that are exclusive to Alaska.

Reserves have provided support for some of Alaska’s toughest challenges, such as the Exxon Valdez oil spill and the Kulluk rig grounding, to some of the more uniquely Alaska missions, such as gold dredging operations and Operation Arctic Shield.

Reserve and active duty crewmembers prepare for patrol of Valdez Sound and transport to Trans-Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS) across from Station Valdez.  U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Reserve and active duty crewmembers prepare for patrol of Valdez Sound and transport to Trans-Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS) across from Station Valdez. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

“Our Reserve members have provided exceptional support during Operation Arctic Shield,” said Lt. Karen Hewes, 17th District Reserve Program Administrator. “Since additional staffing is required to plan for and implement the Arctic strategy our reserve personnel have been invaluable to manage the workload.”

Established Feb. 19, 1941, Coast Guard Reserve personnel served during World War II, where they provided support in a military capacity for coastal and port security details. Over the years the roles of the Coast Guard reservist has expanded, but so has the diversity and impact they’ve made to the service.

“The greatest value our Coast Guard Reserve members offer is their civilian experience,” said Hewes. “I’ve witnessed their exceptional expertise in law enforcement, incident command system, information technology, marine safety, and several other areas. They bring different perspectives that lead to innovative approaches to problem solving.”

The Coast Guard Reserve has been a vital and cost-effective workforce that has maintained its primary purpose of providing surge capacity for Coast Guard missions for more than 74 years. A reserve force epitomizes the Coast Guard ethos, men and women who standby at the ready, to be called up on a moment’s notice to ensure mission success.

To learn more about the Coast Guard Reserves visit here.

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