News: US Coast Guardsmen prepare for Arctic Shield deployment
Story by Tech. Sgt. Michael Holzworth
BARROW, Alaska -- A U.S. Coast Guard HC-130 Hercules from Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak, Alaska, delivered communication support equipment and government vehicles to Barrow, Alaska, June 28, to support the first ever U.S. Coast Guard deployment out of Barrow.
Because of receding ice and an increased activity in the Arctic Ocean, the Coast Guard is staging out of Barrow for the summer, which will enable the Coast Guard to provide quick response to any potential emergency in the far northern region.
“This is a critical logistics piece of our search and rescue operations - without these vehicles, without these communications platforms, without these generators we won’t be able to operate,” said U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Randall Black, HC-130 pilot. “Our job is pretty critical in getting them set up and able to accomplish their missions when they arrive here in Barrow.”
The deployment is schedule to start in early July and last through the summer, possibly into September. The deployment includes a large number of personnel, search and rescue helicopters, and a Coast Guard Cutter.
For the HC-130 Hercules crew, the continuous resupply of fuel and essential equipment will play a large role in the success of the deployment.
“Prior to the start of the deployment it will take approximately 10, seven- to eight-hour missions to ensure the equipment and personnel are in place and prepared,” Black said. “We will be flying a mission at least once a week after everything is operational just to keep everything going.”
Barrow is the northernmost community in the United States and poses a unique set of challenges for flight crews.
“The biggest difference between Kodiak and Barrow is the weather; most of the time its overcast with a ceiling of 300 to 800 feet which makes it a challenge flying here,” said U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Brandon Kelly, aviation maintenance technician loadmaster. “Even though its summer it usually pretty cold here, most of the time it’s in the 30s, so we’re always prepared with our cold weather gear just in case the plane has a mechanical problem and we need to do some maintenance out on the ramp - there is no hanger space in barrow for the Herc.”
The logistical support, provided by the Coast Guardsmen who work aboard the HC-130 Hercules, know the potential need for search and rescue efforts in the Arctic Ocean and understand that being prepared is the best way to help the members of this community and the vessels in need.
“We will be coming up here all summer to keep this operation running and equipped with whatever they need. This is pretty important to this community and to the people who might need our help,” Kelly said.