PUBLISHED: 5:43 PM on Wednesday, March 26, 2008
Five Questions with the U.S. Coast Guard
The United States Coast Guard is the most prevalent military presence in Southeast Alaska. Whether it be securing coastal waters or search and rescue missions, the branch's men and women in uniform stand prepared for a moments notice. Cmdr. Todd Trimpert, chief of the Incident Management Branch, District 17, talks about the Coast Guard's role in Southeast Alaska.

photos courtesy of the United States Coast Guard
  Search and rescue, coastal security, environmental and marine life protection - it's all just part of a days work for the men and women in the United States Coast Guard.
What are all of the Coast Guard's missions in Southeast Alaska?

The U. S. Coast Guard prosecutes the same 11 mission areas in Southeast Alaska as we do throughout the Lower 48. Given the unique nature of Southeast Alaska, our primary areas of focus are Search and Rescue, Ports and Waterways Security, protection of Living Marine Resources (fisheries enforcement), Marine Environmental Protection (oil/pollution prevention and response) and ensuring the safe operation of vessels and maritime facilities.

How are operations in Alaska different than the lower 48 states?

Simply stated, things are just harder in Alaska. Vast distances, extreme weather, desolate coastlines and a general lack of infrastructure (this is the truly the wilderness) all conspire to add a level of complexity to mission prosecution that is not found anywhere else in the United States.

A case in point, in September 2007, Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak conducted an Arctic Domain Awareness C-130 patrol across the northern reaches of Alaska and on to the North Pole. During this patrol, the aircrew had to contend with air temperatures approaching minus 40 degrees Celsius.

As a result, the crew had to constantly adjust their flight profile and path to keep their fuel from freezing (Jet fuel freezes at minus 46 degrees Celsius). No where else in the Coast Guard do aircrews and others have to conduct operations under these types of conditions. It is truly impressive to watch Coast Guard men and women meet mission on the Alaskan Frontier.

What are the greatest challenges men and women in the Coast Guard face every day?

The greatest challenge that we face each day is trying to ensure that we provide the best possible service to the American public in a continually shifting landscape. As technologies, environments, and missions change, it is a constant challenge to make sure that our personnel have the right tools and training to be successful.

"Doing it the same way we have always done it" simply does not work anymore. The world is too complex a place to use antiquated concepts and strategies in meeting mission. New problem solving strategies, technologies, and information have to continually evolve in order for us to be effective.

It is vitally important that we remember that how we solved a problem today will probably not be how we will have to solve it tomorrow; it is all about managing change to remain effective.

What types of training must service members go through to prepare for missions at sea?

Going to sea no matter where you do so is challenging and fraught with risk. Seafaring in Alaska is even more challenging. For many Coast Guard men and women, sailing in Alaska is their first real job after high school or college.

The training they get both through formal training in schools and on the job training on their units must include topics such as learning how to navigate, operate small boats, and conduct law enforcement activities. Additionally, given the unforgiving nature of the environment, personnel aboard Coast Guard cutters relentlessly practice damage control and fire fighting skills.

The object is to be able to do a hard job in a hard environment, yet successfully return home after effectively serving the American public and the maritime community.

What are some of the little-known facts about service in the Coast Guard most people are not aware of?

I think that most people simply do not realize the number of places where Coast Guard men and women serve everyday.

Each year, the Coast Guard deploys personnel to every continent in the world (including Antarctica). We have personnel serving in Iraq, throughout Asia, Europe and the Americas.

There are times in the year where the Coast Guard has someone in every time zone across the globe; we are truly a multi-mission service that is providing a service to the United States from every corner of our world.

Another fact that people might not realize is that the Coast Guard is the only military service with significant federal law enforcement and other regulatory responsibilities and authorities.

To learn more about the United States Coast Guard in Alaska and for updated news and photos, visit