Xue Long rescue

A smallboat crew from the Coast Guard Cutter Alex Haley medevacs a man suffering a broken arm from the Chinese research vessel Xue Long near Nome, Alaska.

The U.S. Coast Guard concluded its Arctic Shield operations Monday, with the closure of its Forward Operating Location in Kotzebue and the departure of the CGC Alex Haley from the Arctic.

Operation Arctic Shield refers to the Coast Guard’s mobile and seasonal presence, which is focused on ensuring maritime safety, security and stewardship throughout the Arctic. It is an annual operation that began in 2009.

Following the completion of this year’s Arctic Shield, Air Station Kodiak crews and two MH-60T Jayhawk

helicopters were forward deployed to Kotzebue to provide better response times and coverage to remote regions of Alaska. Coast Guard crews recently headed back to their respective home ports following the operation’s completion.

It was a successful deployment to the Arctic for the 282-foot Alex Haley and crew, according to a spokesperson for the vessel. They conducted multiple “Arctic training evolutions,” which enabled them to gain firsthand experience on the cutter’s capability in the Arctic. The cutter and crew reportedly played a significant role in the medevac of an injured crewmember aboard the Chinese research vessel Xue Long, 15 miles from Nome in September. 

“Cooperation between the Coast Guard, U.S. Department of State, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection contributed to the success of the medevac,” said Rear Adm. Michael McAllister, Coast Guard District 17 commander. “Partnerships and international cooperation are integral to the Coast Guard’s responsibilities for ensuring safe, secure and environmentally responsible maritime activity in U.S. Arctic waters.”

The vessels spent the summer patrolling the Bering, Chukchi and Beaufort seas and assisted with maritime domain awareness. They also conducted search and rescue missions, engaged in community relations and partnership building, and supported scientific research.

This year’s Arctic Shield, which began July 1, saw Coast Guard crews respond to 20 search and rescue cases, saving 16 lives and assisting 23 others. Beyond those already mentioned, other notable cases include the rescue of two people from a sinking 23-foot skiff in Norton Sound and the rescue of six lost hunters on Saint Lawrence Island. 

To prevent hazards at sea, Coast Guard personnel from the 17th Coast Guard District and Sector Anchorage completed 29 bulk liquid facility inspections, 35 commercial fishing vessel safety exams, 53 gold dredge exams and 12 commercial vessel inspections. 

The Coast Guard also continued its partnership with the State of Alaska’s “Kid’s Don’t Float” campaign by visiting 41 remote villages and educating 4,014 children, predominantly in the Yukon-Kuskokwim delta region.

“The Coast Guard is dedicated to ensuring the protection of the Arctic maritime environment and all those who depend upon it,” said McAllister. “Our crews recognize and respect the sensitive environmental characteristics of the region and partner with Northern Alaskan communities to advance our shared interests in maritime safety and security.”

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