It’s a wrap: Arctic Shield 2015

Petty Officer 3rd Class John Crow, an aviation survival technician at Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City, N.C., deployed to Alaska for Arctic Shield 2015, sits on a piece of sea ice in the Arctic Ocean after approaching a simulated person in the water during a joint civil and federal search and rescue exercise near Oliktok Point, Alaska, July 14, 2015.  U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Grant DeVuyst.

Petty Officer 3rd Class John Crow, an aviation survival technician at Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City, N.C., deployed to Alaska for Arctic Shield 2015, sits on a piece of sea ice in the Arctic Ocean after approaching a simulated person in the water during a joint civil and federal search and rescue exercise near Oliktok Point, Alaska, July 14, 2015. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Grant DeVuyst.

After a successful season of Arctic operations to meet the ever growing maritime needs as sea-ice recedes, the Coast Guard concluded Arctic Shield 2015 operations this week.

From Nome, through the Bering Strait, to the Arctic, as far north as the North Pole, the Coast Guard strategically positioned cutters, aircraft, and personnel throughout the warm summer months.

With the increased use of the Northern Sea Route, Northwest Passage transits through the Bering Strait and traffic from oil/gas and tourism industries, the demand for maritime preparedness in the Arctic region has risen.

“The Coast Guard is dedicated to ensuring the protection of the Arctic maritime environment and all those who depend upon it,” said Rear Adm. Dan Abel, Coast Guard 17th District commander. “We have worked with our federal, state, local and tribal partners to ensure that our operations are carried out in a professional manner while recognizing and respecting the sensitive environmental characteristics of the region where operations occur.”

Petty Officer 3rd Class James Abel, an avionics electrical technician from Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak, Alaska, prepares to deploy an oceanic data-collecting probe over the Arctic Circle Aug. 26, 2015.  U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Lauren Steenson.

Petty Officer 3rd Class James Abel, an avionics electrical technician from Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak, Alaska, prepares to deploy an oceanic data-collecting probe over the Arctic Circle Aug. 26, 2015. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Lauren Steenson.

Coast Guard cutters deployed to the Arctic included: the ice breaker Healy, the national security cutter Waesche, the high endurance cutter Boutwell, Alex Haley and the seagoing buoy tenders Sycamore and Maple. Two Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopters from Air Station Kodiak, Alaska, were deployed to a forward operating location in Deadhorse to rapidly respond to potential maritime incidents in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas.

Outreach efforts included meetings with local, state, federal and tribal partners to address local concerns, subsistence issues and broaden awareness about the Coast Guard’s planned activities in the region. Coast Guard personnel participated in the life jacket education program Kids Don’t Float in an effort to educate 3,376 kids and adults in 26 different villages around the Yukon, Kuskokwim Delta River, and community of Bethel.

The Healy crew conducted science missions in the region in partnership with the National Science Foundation and Coast Guard Research and Development Center to test and evaluate various types of equipment. The Healy also became the first U.S. surface vessel to reach the North Pole unaccompanied, and the fourth U.S. surface vessel to reach the pole.

Additionally, a Geographic Response Strategy equipment mobilization and deployment exercise was conducted and critical oil spill response safety training was given to 30 state, local, and tribal entities in the village of Kotzebue, AK. The successful exercise united a diverse group of agencies and provided an opportunity for understanding each other’s roles and capabilities in Arctic waters.

Coast Guard Cutter Healy crew members use spotlights while navigating through ice Sept. 20, 2015, while underway in the Arctic Ocean. The lights aid in seeing pressure ridges and other obstacles. Healy is underway in the Arctic Ocean in support of the National Science Foundation-funded Arctic Geotraces, part of an international effort to study the distribution of trace elements in the world's oceans. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Cory J. Mendenhall.

Coast Guard Cutter Healy crew members use spotlights while navigating through ice Sept. 20, 2015, while underway in the Arctic Ocean. The lights aid in seeing pressure ridges and other obstacles. Healy is underway in the Arctic Ocean in support of the National Science Foundation-funded Arctic Geotraces, part of an international effort to study the distribution of trace elements in the world’s oceans. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Cory J. Mendenhall.

In accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1970, the Coast Guard completed an environmental assessment for Arctic Shield 2015. The assessment included consultations related to the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act and several public outreach events to ensure all concerned stakeholders had the opportunity to provide input or voice concerns related to Coast Guard Arctic operations. The information was used to inform and improve ongoing Arctic planning and future operations.

The focus throughout Arctic Shield 2015 operations was on protecting lives and property at sea, enforcement of laws and regulations in the region, tribal engagements and assistance, service to aids to navigation, performance and evaluation of science missions and a range of marine safety activities in many Arctic communities.

The partnerships and knowledge that were developed these past several months, during a time of increased maritime activity on the icy waters of the
North, will be invaluable for future Coast Guard operations in the Arctic region for years to come.

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