Shaking off the ice: Coast Guard begins Arctic Shield 2014 outreach

Lt. Tom Pauser, a commercial fishing vessel safety specialist with the Coast Guard 17th District prevention department, and Petty Officer 3rd Class Amanda Barnett, a marine science technician with the Sector Anchorage prevention department, teach students about cold water immersion at the Harold Kaveolook School in Kaktovik, Alaska, March 6, 2014. Coast Guard teams, in coordination with the Alaska Office of Boating Safety, will visit 34 communities with the Kids Don't Float program during Arctic Shield 2014. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Lt. Tom Pauser, a commercial fishing vessel safety specialist with the Coast Guard 17th District prevention department, and Petty Officer 3rd Class Amanda Barnett, a marine science technician with the Sector Anchorage prevention department, teach students about cold water immersion at the Harold Kaveolook School in Kaktovik, Alaska, March 6, 2014. Coast Guard teams, in coordination with the Alaska Office of Boating Safety, will visit 34 communities with the Kids Don’t Float program during Arctic Shield 2014. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

The Coast Guard 17th District officially ended Arctic Shield 2013 five months ago and settled in for a long Alaskan winter. As traffic through the Bering Sea and Arctic Ocean ground to a halt with the encroaching ice, Coast Guard units narrowed their focus to the fishery enforcement and search and rescue missions that occur year-round.

With the days beginning to lengthen once again, members of the 17th District, Sector Juneau and Sector Anchorage have once again widened that scope of missions as they started the community outreach branch of Arctic Shield 2014, the frontrunner to operations that will happen above the Arctic Circle this summer.

The first push of 2014 into the Far North was led by Lt. Tom Pauser, a commercial fishing vessel safety specialist with the 17th District prevention department, and Petty Officer 3rd Class Amanda Barnett, a marine science technician with the Sector Anchorage prevention department. The two Coast Guardsmen travelled to Kaktovik, an island community of roughly 260 people, in the northwest corner of Alaska’s North Slope Borough, to teach the Kids Don’t Float curriculum at the Harold Kaveolook School.

Like many Arctic communities, life in Kaktovik revolves around the constantly frigid ocean and the resources it provides. In response to tragic water-related fatality statistics, the Coast Guard joined the Alaska Office of Boating Safety to bring water safety and life jacket lessons to rural parts of the state in 2012.

“This is my first time taking part in the training,” said Barnett. “I think the students were able to take away a lot of valuable information, such as: situational awareness, preparedness, the importance of having a plan, familiarity with Alaska state laws and statistical information, which types of life jackets are used for different purposes, and the importance of life jacket size.”

The trip marked Pauser’s third consecutive year of involvement with the Kids Don’t Float program, an effort that has brought him to numerous rural communities.

“It’s great to see the program from its inception to today,” he said. “The children were very receptive to staying safe on the water. There’s always a life jacket available.”

Throughout the spring and early summer, Coast Guard teams will visit classrooms in a total of 34 communities. The partnership with the state focuses on teaching the older students to train the younger students, creating a habit of water safety.

Be sure to check our blog throughout the spring and summer as Coast Guard operations, outreach and capabilities assessment continue throughout Alaska and the Arctic.

 

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