KODIAK, Alaska — Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak aircrews demobilized the forward operating location in Kotzebue, Friday, and moved efforts to Utqiagvik.
The move is due to an impact to search and rescue capabilities following a hangar door malfunction, which left helicopters unprotected from cold weather that would cause them to freeze overnight.
“Our aircraft weren’t considered safe to fly until well into the late morning, causing us to lose SAR capabilities for a good portion of the day,” said Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Jay Kircher, pilot, Air Station Kodiak. “Fortunately, we have been able to house our aircraft in hangars belonging to the North Slope Borough Search and Rescue crews, which allow us to continue supporting the Coast Guard’s missions in Kotzebue until we move to Utqiagvik.”
Utqiagvik, formerly known as Barrow, is a village located on the coast of the Chukchi Sea coast and is the largest city and borough seat of the North Slope Borough.
In support of Coast Guard operations in the Arctic, aircrews which consist of 14 members operate on a rotating schedule for two week-long intervals at the forward operation location, where they provide coverage to the entire northwestern portion of Alaska. This area of responsibility spans approximately from Bethel to the northern Alaskan-Canadian border.
Forward operating locations are part of a mobile Coast Guard presence. The aircrews provide support for the 11 statutory missions of the Coast Guard and ensure maritime safety, security and stewardship throughout the Arctic.