Coast Guard National Strike Force reservists recognized for service

Petty Officer 1st Class Jordan McVay leads a training discussion on the DustTrak and other monitoring equipment used by the National Strike Force Gulf Strike Team in Mobile, Alabama, in 2020. The NSF provides rapidly deployable technical experts, specialized equipment, and incident management capabilities for Lead Agency Incident Commanders and Federal On-Scene Coordinators for their response and preparedness missions. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)

Petty Officer 1st Class Jordan McVay leads a training discussion on the DustTrak and other monitoring equipment used by the National Strike Force Gulf Strike Team in Mobile, Alabama, in 2020. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)

By Lt. Ryan Cantu

The year is 2020. Hurricanes? We respond to that. Wildfires? We are there. Golden Ray salvage? We’re hands-on. COVID deployments? Definitely. You might not know that many of the members involved in these responses are not only part of the National Strike Force, but they are also U.S. Coast Guard reservists.

The National Strike Force provides highly trained, experienced personnel and specialized equipment to the U.S. Coast Guard and other federal agencies to facilitate preparedness for and respond to oil and hazardous substance pollution incidents to protect public health and the environment. They work across the nation and internationally.

The NSF totals over 200 active duty, civilian, reserve, and auxiliary personnel and includes the National Strike Force Coordination Center, the Atlantic Strike Team; the Gulf Strike Team; and the Pacific Strike Team.

The impact of the reserve team garnered them this year’s Rear Adm. Bennet “Bud” Sparks award for the under 100 reservist assigned category.

The award is presented annually by the Reserve Organization of America to recognize a unit determined to be the most supportive of an operationally ready Coast Guard Reserve Force as demonstrated by its practical use and support during 2020.

“This team has truly confirmed we are an all threats, all hazards Coast Guard responding to activity ranging from major storm impacts and natural disasters to oil spills. I truly believe the nation watches closely how we the Coast Guard respond to major disasters, and it makes all the difference,” said Vice Adm. Steven Poulin, commander, U.S. Coast Guard Atlantic Area. “The NSF has proven they are ready to meet the challenges we may face in the foreseeable future. Thank you for standing the watch, and thank you to your families for their support.”

Remarkably, the efforts recognized in this award took place amid a global pandemic. Despite restrictions on travel and other actions, the NSF Reserve Force maintained mission readiness while dramatically altering its training regimen.

The NSF Reserve Force pushed an unremitting approach to ensure its rigorous training program did not falter during this challenging period. This effort resulted in all 99 members of the NSF Reserve Force accomplishing participation requirements for FY20. Additionally, the NSF team deployed 39 reservists for more than 3,000 days to support various missions across the country.

The deployments bolstered the NSF’s operational capabilities. They had a tangible impact on the responses to three major hurricanes, four COVID-19 assistance deployments, California wildfire support, and salvage operations for the most extensive wreck removal in U.S. history.

The U.S. Coast Guard reserve has a role in maritime homeland security, domestic and expeditionary support to national defense, and domestic, natural or man-made, disaster response and recovery. The work of the NSF proves the component is as relevant and critical to the Coast Guard’s organizational success today as at any time since its inception in 1941.

Based in Portsmouth, Virginia, U.S. Coast Guard Atlantic Area oversees all Coast Guard operations east of the Rocky Mountains to the Arabian Gulf. These missions range from disaster response support to the allocation of ships to combat transnational organized crime and illicit maritime activity globally.

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