Coast Guard and federal partners lead Arctic search-and-rescue exercise

Coast Guard Headquarters NewsWASHINGTON — The United States Government, led by the United States Coast Guard, the Department of Defense (USNORTHCOM and Alaska Command), and the Department of State, successfully held Arctic Zephyr, an international Arctic Search and Rescue table-top exercise, at the University of Alaska Anchorage from October 19-22, 2015.

Arctic Zephyr examined the Agreement on Cooperation on Aeronautical and Maritime Search and Rescue in the Arctic, signed in 2011.  This agreement was the first binding instrument negotiated under the auspices of the Arctic Council.  It enhances coordination of response capabilities of the Arctic Nations, local governments, private sector, and indigenous communities for mass casualty search-and-rescue (SAR) operations in the Arctic Region.

Participants included Arctic SAR stakeholders and subject matter experts from the United States, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden.  In addition, representatives from the Arctic cruise industry, Alaska Northwest, and North Slope Boroughs participated.  The exercise format included a series of baseline overview briefings followed by scenario-driven facilitated discussions.

“This is a magnificent opportunity to anticipate challenges and explore successful solutions for the extreme environment of the last frontier,” said Rear Adm. Daniel Abel, Seventeenth Coast Guard District commander.

The objectives of Arctic Zephyr were to advance the understanding of Arctic Nations’ SAR capabilities and the means for coordination, and command and control among mission partners and relevant stakeholders; to identify and recommend improvements for coordination and interoperability; to identify the challenges associated with increased human access and environmental changes and their impact on international Arctic SAR operations; to evaluate the complexities involved in conducting remote mass search and rescue operations; and to develop a core set of implementation recommendations to be presented to the Arctic Council.

“We are eager to fully realize the benefits of our collaboration during the Arctic Zephyr exercise,” said Abel.

An after-action report will be developed, with recommendations for national leadership and the Arctic Council.  The United States will host a live international search and rescue exercise in 2016.

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