National Guard assists with harbor safeguards

Alaska Army National Guard specialists Christopher Hatfield, Zachery Burg, Edgar Sandoval, Kalen Willis, Joseph Academia and David Lapuz, all assigned to Joint Task Force-Alaska, have been patrolling Kodiak Harbor since May 1 to assist the city of Kodiak with COVID-19 safety measures. 

Ten Alaska Army National Guard soldiers and one Alaska State Defense Force soldier assigned to Joint Task Force-Alaska have been working alongside Kodiak Harbor personnel as part of a coordinated effort with the city of Kodiak to ensure COVID-19 pandemic safeguards are followed at the ports of entry, according to a news release.

“This mission has highlighted the adaptability and flexibility of the Alaska Guard,” said Alaska State Defense Force Capt. Ryan Sharratt, Commander of C Co. 2nd Special Troops Battalion, who has been working as the Joint Task Force-Alaska liaison officer in Kodiak.

“We’ve had the right soldier, in the right formation, at the right time and the city of Kodiak deserves nothing short of that standard.”

Since May 1, the guardsmen have been patrolling the harbor, providing public outreach and ensuring that safety measures are in place and proper guidance is given related to COVID-19 mandates.

The soldiers have relayed all quarantine directives to incoming captains and their crews. The local harbor masters, not the guardsmen, are responsible for any potential enforcement actions.

Lima flags have been issued for crews who have recently traveled to a port outside of Kodiak. The lima flag is an international maritime signal flag code for infectious disease. The crew is then required to quarantine for 14 days before entering the Kodiak community. As of Thursday, 14 vessels in Kodiak were flying the lima flag.

The quarantine precautions are even more significant as of May 12, when intrastate travel to Kodiak became permitted under Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s health mandate 18, allowing vessels to come to Kodiak for both essential and nonessential purposes. 

Kodiak is the nation’s fourth-busiest fishing fleet, with a consistent influx of maritime vessels. Managing the harbor is a 24-hour operation. The soldiers have been working in shifts that allow for full coverage of the harbor at all times.

Logistics for the Kodiak effort are run locally out of the Kodiak Emergency Operations Center. The soldiers have integrated into the staff to assist local employees in their effort to keep Kodiak safe.

The Alaska Department of Military and Veterans Affairs employs military personnel who are equipped, trained and ready to render assistance as needed in response to the governor’s public health disaster emergency declaration for COVID-19. 

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