For many, the fall season means cooling temperatures, leaves turning and all things pumpkin. But for the men and women of Air Station Kodiak, the fall is all about the cold, Cold Bay to be exact.
Kodiak stood up a seasonal forward operating location in Cold Bay, Alaska, in advance of winter fisheries with one MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter and rotating crews. A second helicopter and crew will remain at the ready in Kodiak to assist in any long-range or complex cases.
Alaskan waters are notoriously volatile, and the seasonal location in Cold Bay ensures the Coast Guard can assist fishermen working in and around Bristol Bay, the Bering Sea and the Aleutian Islands. The air station will be joined by a Coast Guard cutter on patrol in the region throughout the season, equipped with an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter from Air Station Kodiak.
Kodiak utilizes forward operating locations throughout the region to cut down response times. In the summer, Jayhawk crews are deployed to both Cordova and the Arctic region.
“We recognize the danger posed by the harsh Alaska maritime environment and the nature of essential work being done statewide,” said Capt. Daniel Travers, chief of incident management at the 17th Coast Guard District. “Establishing forward operating locations during peak seasons of maritime activity greatly reduce the time it takes to respond to emergencies from Kodiak and allows us to save lives.”
The deployment couldn’t have come at a better time as crews have already medevaced an ailing fisherman from the 210-foot fishing vessel Alaska Juris near Cold Bay. The aircrew rendezvoused with the Alaska Juris 110 miles north of Cold Bay, safely hoisted the man aboard the helicopter and transported him to awaiting emergency medical services in Cold Bay for further care.
“This case illustrated the importance of forward deploying our assets to remote areas of Alaska, as well as the training and coordination of our aircraft crews,” said Lt.j.g. Alaina Fagan, a watchstander at the district command center. “Without having the coverage and coordination of these crews, a proper and timely rescue may not have been possible.”
Days later, the forward deployed crew was back on the case as they medevaced a 42-year-old man from the Seattle-based fishing vessel Blue Gadus in the Bering Sea.
The Jayhawk crew rendezvoused with the 150-foot longliner 207 miles northwest of Cold Bay, safely hoisted the man aboard and transported him to Cold Bay to meet emergency medical personnel with LifeFlight for further transport to an advanced medical care facility.
“Our search and rescue planners and our Jayhawk crews have an excellent working relationship with the commercial medevac services in the state allowing us to expedite the transport of mariners to the essential medical care they need,” said Lt. j.g Ted Borny, a search and rescue controller in the command center.
The fishing community in the Bering is filled with some of the most skilled and daring fishermen in the world, but should things take a turn for the worse, the Coast Guard will be there ready to respond.