Response training keeps Alaska safe

Petty Officer 3rd Class Nicholas Greene looks on as Senior Chief Petty Officer Jeffrey Estes discusses the unified response effort with a member of the unified command during a training exercise held in Anchorage, Alaska, Sept. 18, 2012. Both Greene and Estes, marine science technicians at Sector Anchorage, participated in the response drill as members of the unified command response team, and provided real world knowledge and expertise to a maritime pollution incident training scenario. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Nicholas Greene looks on as Senior Chief Petty Officer Jeffrey Estes discusses the unified response effort with a member of the unified command during a training exercise held in Anchorage, Alaska, Sept. 18, 2012. Both Greene and Estes, marine science technicians at Sector Anchorage, participated in the response drill as members of the unified command response team, and provided real world knowledge and expertise to a maritime pollution incident training scenario. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Members of Coast Guard Sector Anchorage participated in an industry-led oil spill response training exercise to practice implementing response plans for maritime pollution incidents, Sept. 18, 2012.

The exercise, which took place in Anchorage, involved a member of the oil industry activating and implementing their Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation Contingency Plan. This plan requires notification to the Coast Guard and other federal, state and local agencies, who then orginized at a central location in Anchorage and form a unified command to respond to the developing situation.

By law, the Coast Guard has 11 statutory mission areas that are a constant focus of its people. These 11 areas are: ports, waterways, and coastal security, drug interdiction, aids to navigation, search and rescue, living marine resources, marine safety, defense readiness, migrant interdiction, marine environmental protection, Ice operations, and other law enforcement.

Not all missions directly affect every unit across the Coast Guard. This holds true for Sector Anchorage, where, along with search and rescue, ports, waterways and costal security and living marine resources, the marine environmental protection mission is a constant focus for the command. 

The commanding officer of Sector Anchorage, Capt. Paul Mehler, is the designated initial response federal on scene coordinator in any marine environmental response to an incident.  As part of this responsibility, designated personnel are given the responsibility to work with federal, state and local partners and with industry to help ensure that all parties are ready to respond correctly to a maritime incident.

For this planned response drill Senior Chief Petty Officer Jeffrey Estes and Petty Officer 3rd Class Nicholas Greene, both marine science technicians at Sector Anchorage, participated in the exercise and assumed the integral rolls of federal on scene coordinator and deputy federal on scene coordinator, respectively.

“We are not there to grade the response, but to help them be better prepared for an actual incident,” said Greene.

During a unified command response, Coast Guard personnel provide operational expertise to the situation and ensuring a proper response is carried out.

“I was able to provide information, giving practical real world knowledge to the hypothetical situation,” said Green.  “Together senior chief and I were able to help with the realism of the training and provide onsite feedback to help refine the response process.”

Sector Anchorage maintains working relationships with industry organizations across Western Alaska, and through these relationships they constantly participate in these types of training exercises.

Industry organizations are often required to hold this type of training. With all of these organizations needing to fulfill their training requirements, we are often participating in two or more exercises a month throughout the year, said Greene. 

By continually providing real world knowledge and expertise, Sector Anchorage personnel aggressively maintain their focus on the mission of marine environmental protection.