As America’s lead federal agency for maritime safety, security and stewardship the Coast Guard is playing a central role as human activity increases north of the Arctic Circle. Expanding Arctic operations require the building of new relationships and strengthening existing partnerships in the area. Chief Petty Officer Jenell Webster seized the opportunity for personal growth while supporting Coast Guard efforts in the Arctic.
Assigned to Barrow, Alaska, in support of Operation Arctic Shield 2012, Webster and her team of eight petty officers were responsible for maintaining communications for all Coast Guard air assets in the Arctic region effectively covering radio transmissions 400 miles in any direction. When not leading her team in their mission support role, Webster led her team in building relationships in the local community which will impact mission success for years to come.
Communicating directly with Barrow Mayor Robert Harcharek and North Slope Borough Mayor Charlotte Brower to identify areas in which her Coast Guard men and women could best make an impact in the community, Webster oversaw or took part in 200 hours of community service in one of the nation’s most remote locations.
“Webster’s awesome initiative greatly enhanced Arctic Shield 2012’s outreach mission, one of the Coast Guard’s most comprehensive non-disaster driven humanitarian relief and outreach plans in the nation’s recent history,” said Cmdr. Patrick Ropp, Arctic Shield 2012 outreach coordinator.
Webster spent her off-duty hours at the Tuzzy Consortium Library helping to organize books, cutting decorations and reading to local children. She also joined her team at the Children’s Youth Center and Barrow’s Senior’s Center helping prepare and clean-up after meals. All the while, she took the time to meet and learn a little more about these people who live their lives in some of the harshest conditions on the planet.
“For me it was about learning their culture,” said Webster. “[A culture] I would have never known if I hadn’t sat with an elder at lunch and listened to his stories or spent time with the youth hearing them speak to each other in their native language.”
When not working indoors, Webster and her team rolled up their sleeves and literally left the city better than they found it. With 100% participation from her eight-person team, hundreds of pounds of trash were removed from Barrow’s beaches. They also worked with local Eagle Scouts to help complete repairs to a local boardwalk and gazebo.
“Webster became engrained in the community and went well beyond the call of duty to become a true ambassador for the Coast Guard, fortifying our longstanding ties with Alaska Natives in the Arctic,” said Ropp. “Personal efforts such as this will help the Coast Guard successfully complete all of our core missions by maintaining strong partnerships with all of the stakeholders in these remote coastal communities.”
Webster is quick to give credit for her accomplishments to an enthusiastic crew but it is clear that her brief stay in the land of the midnight sun will serve her and the Coast Guard well in the future.
“I just hope I made an impact on the community,” said Webster, “because the relationships I formed and time I spent definitely made an impact on my life.”