Coast Guard units in South Central, Western Alaska shift assets for winter operations

KODIAK, Alaska – Coast Guard aircrews on Kodiak Island and Coast Guard Auxiliary boat crews on the Kenai Peninsula are scheduled to shift their assets Thursday in response to upcoming winter fisheries and a seasonal decrease in South Central recreational boating activity.

Coast Guard aviators have moved helicopters from the Cordova base, operated during the spring and summer, to Cold Bay in advance of the red king crab season to reduce the response time to any activity in Bristol Bay, the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands. A Coast Guard cutter with a Kodiak-based HH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew will also be on patrol in the Bering Sea during the majority of the season.

The Coast Guard Auxiliary unit in Seward closed on Labor Day and Auxiliary units in Homer and Whittier are scheduled to close on Columbus Day for the winter season. Auxiliary units respond to the increased recreational traffic in Cook Inlet, Resurrection Bay and Prince William Sound during the summer. This volunteer force is often first on scene for search and rescue and handles many minor cases during the season preventing them from becoming distress situations. The units will reopen in the spring.

The MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crews deployed to Cold Bay from Kodiak will rotate nine helicopter personnel each week over a 10-week period. During the first two weeks of the season in Cold Bay the helicopter crew will support deployed personnel from the Kodiak-based Aids to Navigation Team as they conduct seasonal work on 19 aids from Chignik to Dutch Harbor.

“This is a mission supported by all 34 of Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak’s rotary wing aviators,” said Lt. Doug Doll, Air Station Kodiak MH-60 standardization officer. “Aside from the deployed crews on the cutter and in Cold Bay we will have one MH-60 crew here in Kodiak on a two hour recall for backfill for the crews in Cold Bay if needed. The C-130s get into the show with weekly logistics flights to support and change deployed personnel.”

Kodiak-based Coast Guard Air Station HC-130 Hercules aircrews are scheduled to conduct 13 round trip logistics flights from Kodiak to Cold Bay. The crews will shift to St. Paul in January for the snow or Opilio crab season during which the fishing fleet operates further north. Assets remain in Kodiak to respond to the tanner crab fishers and any other cases which may arise.

Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak helicopter crews assisted in the rescue of four lives and saved 14 this year operating out of the forward deployed base in Cordova. In 2009, at the forward operating base in Cold Bay, helicopter rescue crews assisted in the rescue of one life and saved two during the red king crab season.

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