The U.S. Coast Guard is now on the ground — and in the air — in northwest Alaska for the summer.
On Saturday, the Coast Guard opened its forward operating location in Kotzebue for the 10th year of Operation Arctic Shield. According to a press release, Arctic Shield is intended “to support Coast Guard missions in response to increased maritime activity in the Arctic.”
Two MH-60 Jayhawk helicopters and crews are stationed in Kotzebue and will assist with search-and-rescue operations and other maritime emergencies. In addition, three Coast Guard cutters will engage in missions in the Bering Strait and Chukchi and Beaufort seas.
The Coast Guard says it will also conduct what it calls Operation Arctic Guardian: meeting with community responders in the Arctic to teach and plan for basic oil-spill response.
Rear Admiral Matthew Bell says the forward operating location helps overcome some of the challenges of the Arctic, including “the environment, vast distances and limited infrastructure.”
Last summer, the Coast Guard conducted 20 search-and-rescue missions as part of Arctic Shield, saving 20 lives and assisting 27 others. The mission this year will continue through October.
Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated that the three Coast Guard vessels engaged in Arctic Mission are icebreakers. Only one of them, the USCGC Healy, is classified as an icebreaker.
Image at top: A Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk rescue helicopter in Kotzebue. (Photo: Petty Officer 3rd Class Walter Shinn, U.S. Coast Guard.)