ANT Kodiak keeps Alaskan mariners safe

 

Petty Officer 2nd Class Jay Tracy, an electronics technician with Aids to Navigation Team Kodiak, is lowered by an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew to a fixed aid on Andronica Island near Sand Point, Alaska, in the Shumagin Islands to conduct aids to navigation work Monday, Oct. 15, 2012. Tracy was a part of a team that serviced aids throughout Southwest Alaska in October during a 20-day deployment to Cold Bay. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Jay Tracy.

The Coast Guard aids to navigation missions include more than just the work of buoy tender crews. In Alaska, Aids to Navigation Teams in Kodiak and Sitka service more than 220 land-based aids. The crew at Aids to Navigation Team Kodiak is responsible for maintaining and repairing aids throughout Prince William Sound, Southwest, Western and Northwest Alaska.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Jay Tracy, is an electronics technician and part of ANT Kodiak. During his six years of service as an ET, Tracy has been stationed in Ohio and Bahrain with duties ranging from security to communications aboard small boats, cutters and small boat stations. At ANT Kodiak, his first ATON unit since joining the Coast Guard, he serves as the lead petty officer and is in charge of managing the unit’s materials, supplies and for conducting repairs and maintenance to the aids in their area of responsibility.

Tracy explained that as an ET in the Coast Guard, the usual billets available are either aboard a ship or on land at electronics system support and communication units. At ANT Kodiak, it is a combination of both.

 “From an electronics technician standpoint, I really like it,” said Tracy. “It’s different from my normal job and I get to fly all over Alaska.”

Normally, electronics technicians are responsible for installation, maintenance, repair and management of sophisticated electrical equipment including electrical power generation, ship propulsion plan control and interior communication systems.

At ANT Kodiak however, Tracy and his team are required to travel to various, remote locations around the state to service the aids that keep the maritime boating community safe by signaling harbor entrances, shoal water and other navigational hazards. For 20 days in October the team based out of Cold Bay, 435 miles southwest of Kodiak, to work aids on Alaska Peninsula and Aleutian Islands.

“The Cold Bay trip is always an interesting one because it is the last scheduled trip of the year,” said Tracy. “The reason it is so ‘dicey’ is because the places we go there are right on the Aleutian Chain, and is where we encounter a lot of the snow and wind. The weather is always a significant obstacle that we have to overcome when we’re deployed.”

 

Petty Officer 2nd Class Tracy bench tests an aid at ANT Kodiak

Petty Officer 2nd Class Jay Tracy, an electronics technician at Aids to Navigation Team Kodiak, bench tests an aid at the unit Monday, Nov. 19, 2012. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Jonathan Klingenberg.

Due to the remote and isolated locations of the navigational aids, Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crews are often called upon to transport team members to the various worksites. Tracy recalls being hoisted as much as 40-feet down to aids on tiny islands, rocks and precarious cliffs. The Alaska-based ANTs are the only two in the Coast Guard where they regularly use a helicopter delivery. ANT Kodiak manages 119 aids and 100 of them are only accessible by helicopter.

“Working with the air station is great,” Tracy said. “Using two separate entities to complete one mission makes the job awesome. There is no way we could take a boat and cover all of our area, so we have to fly everywhere.”

On top of the regular aids work, Tracy and his team are required to be tower climb and tower rescue qualified, helicopter hoist qualified and participate in Air Station Kodiak’s wet drills for safety reasons.

Tracy said that during the wet drills training, the ANT crew has to pass a number of different criteria, including open water safety and life raft training, a 75-yard swim in full flight gear and Shallow-Water Egress Training to learn how to egress from a simulated overturned helicopter cockpit submerged underwater.

The ANT in Kodiak is comprised of 20 personnel ranging from Seaman to Chief Petty Officer. In addition to ATON the ANT provides a boat training platform for the co-located air station crews.

“My team is great,” Tracy said. “We have developed a sort of predictive personality to each other, and in that, we know exactly how we are going to service an aid. Our best time is 18 minutes and in poor weather conditions in the remote places we go that’s excellent.”

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