The U.S. Coast Guard opened up its forward operating location in Kotzebue last week as part of Arctic Shield 2013.
Though this year’s operation is focused on Western Alaska, the Coast Guard aims to build on knowledge gained during last year’s operation in the Arctic, where personnel and equipment were based in Barrow.
“It’s important that we are able to increase our maritime domain awareness,” Kip Wadlow, a spokesperson for the 17th U.S. Coast Guard District in Juneau, said. “So we know what’s going on in the Bering Strait, so if a accident or disaster occurs, we are prepared to work with our international and local partners to respond to that.”]
During Arctic Shield 2013, the Coast Guard will focus on outreach in Western Alaska, testing its Arctic capabilities, and working in conjunction with the Canadian Coast Guard to help build on its international partnership with Canada.
Wadlow says one difference between this and last year’s operation is the testing of the Coast Guard Cutter Naushon.
“What makes this important is that it is the first time that a Coast Guard 110-foot patrol boat has ever deployed that far north,” Wadlow said. “So, it is gonna provide the Coast Guard with great opportunity to test the capabilities of that asset, so we can better understand what it’s gonna take for future cutters to operate in the area.”
The Coast Guard will be looking to see how the Naushon handles the harsh weather conditions in the Arctic, since its relatively small size makes it more vulnerable than the larger, Arctic-ready vessels like the Healy or Polar Star.
The forward operating location will remain open through the end of September.