Celebrating the Coast Guard’s 224th birthday on the Last Frontier

Rear Adm. Dan Abel addresses attendees of the Coast Guard 17th District change of command ceremony at the Station Juneau pier in Juneau, Alaska, June 12, 2014. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Grant DeVuyst.

Rear Adm. Dan Abel addresses attendees of the Coast Guard 17th District change of command ceremony at the Station Juneau pier in Juneau, Alaska, June 12, 2014. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Grant DeVuyst.

This week we celebrate the nation’s oldest continuous armed maritime service: the U.S. Coast Guard.

On Jan. 4, 1790, the Second Congress of the United States, meeting in the City of New York put forward an act, “to provide more effectually for the collection of the duties imposed by law on goods, wares, and merchandise, imported into the United States and on the tonnage of ships and vessels. And the better to secure this collection that the President of the United States be empowered to cause to be built and equipped so many boats or cutters, not exceeding ten as may be necessary to be employed for the protection of the revenue…” Seven months later, President Washington signed the bill into law.

The Coast Guard has a long history in Alaska with famous names such as Healy, Bertholf and Petit. We carry on the work of those who have gone before us. Some of that work remains identical to that performed long ago, some of it has evolved. But ultimately, the call is the same: we place the well-being of our nation and its citizens ahead of our own.

On March 26, 1898, the relief party sights the most westerly of the icebound whaling vessels. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

On March 26, 1898, the relief party sights the most westerly of the icebound whaling vessels. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

One notable historical mission in Alaska was the Overland Expedition in 1897. Eight whaling ships became trapped in the Arctic ice near Point Barrow. Concerned that the 265 crewmen would starve to death, the whaling companies appealed to President William McKinley to send a relief expedition. The crew of cutter Bear sailed northward from Port Townsend, Wash., in late November 1897.

With no chance of the cutter pushing through the ice to Point Barrow, the crew put a party ashore. On snowshoes and skis and using sleds pulled by dogs and reindeer, the crew trekked 1,500 miles and delivered 382 reindeer to the trapped whaling crewmen.

Today, the Coast Guard continues the tradition of providing these services through Arctic Shield operations ensuring maritime safety and security in the Arctic and maintaining strong partnerships with the Alaskan people.

Increased human activity in the Arctic, with its extreme environment and limited infrastructure, has its own logistical challenges. Maintaining safety, security and stewardship in the region calls for a continuous assessment of capabilities, the right resources and strong partnerships.

“As we celebrate Coast Guard Day with our family and friends I am reminded of our service’s rich history of professionalism and commitment to excellence in Alaska,” said Rear Adm. Dan Abel, Commander, 17th District. “This commitment to excellence continues today and ensures that the Coast Guard is Always Ready as we stand the watch on the Last Frontier.”

Click here to read more about Coast Guard Day across the nation.

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