Coast Guard Commandant visits Kodiak with several members of Congress

Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Karl L. Shultz arrives at the City Dock to tour the CGC Healy which was in Kodiak enroute to the Arctic. (Photo by Maggie Wall/KMXT)

The Commandant of the Coast Guard, the highest ranking in the branch, was in Kodiak on Monday.

While in Kodiak, Admiral Karl L. Shultz toured a number of local units with a delegation of congress members and their staff.

“They’re going to various units, not just here in Kodiak,” said Coast Guard Public Affairs Specialist Lauren Dean. “They were in Juneau. They’ve been visiting different Coast Guard units throughout Alaska to get a broader scope and a feel for what we deal with operations wise.”

Among the challenges facing the service is small units with big responsibilities.

“We cover such a broad area of responsibility or AOR comparatively to other places in the Lower 48 with less resources,” Dean said. “We are appreciative of the Commandant and the congressional representatives taking the time to visit all the various units in Alaska. You don’t understand fully until you’re here in Alaska and you see what it’s like. And I think it was imperative that they were able to come to Alaska and get to actually see it and experience it for themselves.”

Dean said the delegation split up, with some members going to Kotzebue while the bulk of the group stayed here.

The contingent that went to Kotzebue was expected to tour Air Station Kodiak’s forward deployment unit, which is operational part of the year.

Helicopters and crew provide a fast response for fishermen and mariners who get in trouble in that region of the state.

Kotzebue is one of the forward operating locations and typically they’re open through the summer and in the winter months to follow the fishing fleet for search and rescue response.           

The commandant and the other part of the congressional group visited a number of local commands as well as taking a tour of the CGC Healy which was at the City Dock. The big, red-and-white icebreaker arrived in Kodiak on Saturday and left Monday shortly after the Commandant’s visit.

The 420-foot-long icebreaker. It is on a months-long deployment to the Arctic Ocean where it will support a number of science missions.

The Healy will also play a role in the Operation Arctic Shield. That operation is the service’s annual deployment to provide a presence in the Far North, which is seeing increased vessel traffic because of melting sea ice.

The Healy, a medium icebreaker, is one of two Coast Guard icebreakers. The other, the Polar Star, is the United States’ only heavy icebreaker. The Healy is newer, longer, and carries more advanced technology than the Polar Star. Both are homeported in Seattle.