Takin’ care of business in Shemya

A construction team made up of Coast Guardsmen from Communications Station Kodiak, Command, Control, & Communications Engineering Center and civilian contractors move part of an 88-foot communications antenna into position for assembly on Shemya Island June 27, 2011.

Fifteen hundred miles southwest of Anchorage, Alaska, sits a small island named Shemya. What used to be a thriving Air Force Base with more than 2,000 active duty members is now a home for civilian contractors, tasked with maintaining communications and electronics gear important to the Bering Sea and U.S. This island is also a very close neighbor to the recently decommissioned Long Range Aids to Navigation Station at Attu. The LORAN Station not only maintained LORAN equipment but also critical communications equipment that covered more than 500,000 square miles of the Bering Sea.

The Coast Guard quickly recognized the importance of maintaining this coverage, and in so doing, established a strategic plan to have an 88-foot communications antenna and a 120-foot communications antenna placed on the very remote island of Shemya. Communication Station Kodiak and Command, Control, & Communications Engineering Center’s product line, swiftly became the forerunners to bring this plan to fruition. This considerable task was both a notable challenge and great opportunity for technical growth for all personnel involved, since this type of work is almost always completed by contract.

Civilian contractor Rich Belisle and Coast Guard Seaman Nathan Pacheco, from Communications Station Kodiak, help erect one of two communications antennas on Shemya Island June 30, 2011. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

After several long winter months of transporting parts and supplies and a week of prefabrication work for the anchor and tower bases, 13 technicians from as far as Baltimore and Virginia, to California and Alaska, set out to Shemya in the summer of 2011 to be a part of this great endeavor. Spending more than five weeks on a remote island with nothing to do but work, eat, and sleep; the group made swift and expert progress in completing the mission ahead of schedule. Even with 18 hours of Alaskan daylight, the group experienced little consistency with clear weather that would have assisted in making the task that much easier. Visibility, often measured in feet and inches due to heavy fog, was our greatest enemy. Even with the weather’s cooperation, the task of erecting two full antennas is not an easy one.

Jim Wells, Rich Belisle, Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class James Hopkins and Petty Officer 3rd Class Cody Beauford increase tension on stabilization guy wires while erecting a 120-foot communications antenna on Shemya Island July 2, 2011.

The group was responsible for the arduous duty of digging holes, moving, mixing, and pouring over 90,000 pounds of concrete to create 20 stable concrete blocks for the antenna and anchors/guys. Almost 2,000-feet of traitorous peat-marsh, swamp, and void-boulder filled land were trenched and backfilled, 120 ground-plane joints were silver soldered, over eight hours of aloft time expended, and with countless hours of tower building and construction, this group should be commended for their perseverance and dedication. I know I am proud to have been a part of this unique endeavor with this special group of Coasties.

Written by ETC Steph Wolf

Personnel:
Project Leader: ITC Scott Reckner
Tower Mechanic/Master Rigger: Jim Wells
Master Rigger: Richard Belisle-Master Riggers
Team: ETC Steph Wolf
ET1 Jim Hopkins
ET1 Arthur Gross
ET1 Jeremy Humphreys
ET1 Richard Williams
ET2 Alexander Wolf
ET2 John Messina
ET3 Cody Beauford
ET3 Robert Holmes
SN Nathaniel Pacheco

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