Coast Guard looks to Alaska for valuable recruits

North Slope Borough SAR open house

Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Charley Fowler, an Air Station Kodiak rescue swimmer, talks to a young Barrow resident about the equipment he and other rescue swimmers use to save lives during the North Slope Borough open house event July 11, 2012, in Barrow, Alaska. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer Kip Wadlow.

The Coast Guard is more than ships and aircraft, it’s the diverse group of people who operate them and support those in the field. Every person brings different skill sets with them when they join the service. Those skill sets could range from being fluent in a second language to having a broad understanding of different cultures.

The Coast Guard operates throughout the nation, along our borders and conducts cultural exchanges with other countries. Our ability to effectively communicate cross-culturally with the mariners and the communities we encounter in these regions is critical to success. In the southern part of the country having Spanish speakers on staff is very helpful.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2010 count, in Alaska there are more than 200 federally recognized Alaska Native tribes and an estimated 139,762 Alaskan Natives statewide, speaking at least 20 different languages.

As Coast Guard operations in Alaska continue to grow and expand in the Arctic region it is extremely beneficial to have personnel who are culturally sensitive to speak one-on-one with the Alaska Native communities. These personnel carry an added degree of credibility with those who share their background, and helps in strengthening relationships and lays the foundation for a strong partnership in the future.

“The Alaska Native culture has a wealth of traditional knowledge and understanding in this region and we value their perspective and what they can teach us,” said Rear Adm. Thomas Ostebo, commander 17th Coast Guard District. “Being able to speak with them on their terms and in their language allows us to share information and build those positive relationships more effectively.”

The Coast Guard has 11 statutory missions. In the Arctic being able to communicate these and build strong relationships that benefit all involved is imperative. Arctic Shield 2012 was a period of sustained operations in the region that focused on operations, capability assessments, and outreach. That outreach ranged from bringing services to the villages, to conducting boating safety exams, and taking comments from locals on the effects of increased activity in the region. The main goals are same for all, protect the safety of life at sea, ensure the protection of the environment, facilitate commerce and protect our borders.

“We have many unique challenges to overcome in the Arctic and we need the knowledge and experience of our federal, state, local and tribal partners to achieve our goals,” said Ostebo.

Nome Mayor Denise Michels visits the Coast Guard Academy

U.S. Coast Guard Academy cadets pose for a photo with Nome Mayor Denise Michels at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn., Nov. 27, 2012. Michels was invited by the Center for Maritime Policy and Strategy as the first invited speaker to the CMPS Dialogues and the Maritime Future series. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Diana Honings.

In November, Nome Mayor Denise Michels visited the Coast Guard Academy and discussed climate change, arctic development and the impacts on Alaskan Natives and communities with cadets and faculty throughout the week. Michels comments were so thought-provoking that a section has been added to the Coast Guard History course on both historical and present relationships between the Coast Guard and Alaskan Native communities.

“The future leaders of the Coast Guard, 17th District and commanders of future cutters and units in Alaska are in the Coast Guard Academy today,” said Michels. “It was a true honor to address the cadets and a once in a life time opportunity!”

There are several ways to join the Coast Guard. Most commonly candidates attend either eight-weeks of basic training at Cape May, N.J., and become enlisted or they attend the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn., for four years and become officers. There are also direct commission programs available depending on the candidate’s education and skills. A Coast Guard career is distinguished from many other jobs by the opportunity to serve one’s country. In return the Coast Guard provides competitive salary and benefits as well as personal growth opportunities to those who serve.

To find out more about joining the Coast Guard please visit or contact a recruiter in your area.

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