US Naval Forces Alaska
Based in Juneau, Alaska, the Seventeenth District is responsible for the waters around Alaska, performing search and rescue, environmental protection, and the maintenance of waterways specifically icebreaking.
More than 1,900 members of "Team Coast Guard" accomplish a wide variety of missions in the 17th District. In a state that spans a distance normally covered by four time zones - with a coastline larger than that of the Lower 48 - it is easy to see the importance of the Coast Guard in Alaska. More than 1,800 active-duty members serve in Alaska. Helping with the missions are 400 Auxiliarists, 50 reservists and 140 civilian employees.
Because Alaska is a maritime state, search and rescue is an important mission. During fiscal year 1999, the Coast Guard here conducted 911 search and rescue cases and saved 255 lives. Fisheries law enforcement is also an important mission in Alaska. During fiscal 1997, units working in Alaska waters conducted more than 1,570 fisheries boardings to enforce international treaty obligations and U.S. fisheries regulations.
There are 15 floating units based in Alaska: five 180-foot buoy tenders; five 110-foot patrol boats; three medium-endurance cutter; one 175-foot buoy tender and one 65-foot buoy tender. Two small-boat stations with three 41-foot utility boats round out the district's floating assets. Augmenting the district's law enforcement efforts are several medium and high-endurance cutters that routinely patrol Alaskan waters from the West Coast and Hawaii. Six C-130 aircraft and 12 helicopters based at air stations Kodiak and Sitka provide additional platforms for law enforcement, marine environmental protection, search and rescue, and logistics support.
Alaska's waterways are its lifelines, making environmental protection and marine safety a major concern for our three Marine Safety Offices (MSO's). The MSO's and their five detachments, along with Vessel Traffic Service Valdez, meet these concerns. Seven buoy tenders and an aids-to-navigation team maintain nearly 1,300 navigational aids. Three of the district's six Long Range Navigation (LORAN) stations are among the Coast Guard's last isolated units.
The mission of U.S. Naval Forces Alaska is to coordinate Naval activities within Alaska in support of theater force readiness. Serve as the Naval Component Commander to Alaskan Command and facilitate Naval response to theatre contingencies and support of military assistance to civil authorities (MACA).
The commander of the 17th Coast Guard District is dual hatted as commander U.S. Naval Forces Alaska, accomplishing both the peacetime and wartime naval tasks in the state. Major peacetime responsibilities include search and rescue, law enforcement of territorial waters, maintenance of navigational maritime aides and ensuring maritime safety.
District 17 forces are located at Petersburg, Juneau, Ketchikan, Homer, Seward, Tok, Anchorage, Kenai, Valdez, Nome, St. Paul, and three air stations at Kodiak, Sitka and Cordova (seasonal). The district uses a wide variety of vessels including tenders, patrol boats and medium endurance cutters. During wartime, Coast Guard forces provide the majority of naval forces in Alaska for the defense of the state's 33,000 miles of shoreline.
In 1984, the Secretaries of Transportation and Navy signed a Memorandum of Agreement which created the Maritime Defense Zones (MDZ). These MDZs, one on each coast, are echelon three Navy commands under Fleet CINCS. The Pacific MDZ has responsibility for coastal defense 0-200 Nautical Miles around the U.S. West Coast, Alaska, Aleutian Islands, and Hawaii during times of hostility. On 01 October 1990, Commander U.S. Naval Forces Alaska (COMUSNAVAK) was established as the Naval Component Commander to Commander, Alaskan Command (COMALCOM). Since its inception, COMUSNAVAK has grown to become responsible for coordinating all Navy activity in the Alaska and Aleutian area, for detailed planning and coordination for the Naval portion of the Joint and Combined EXERCISE Northern Edge, and coordinates high-visibility U.S. Navy ship visits through-out Alaska in support of public relations and recruiting initiatives.
Due to budget constraints and warming relations with former adversaries, the Naval Air Station at Adak Island was closed in March 1997. Prior to the deactivation, Adak's mission had shifted from providing support to air operations for antisubmarine warfare forces to one of providing short term support of transiting aircraft and ships. The island's population had shrunk to approximately five hundred unaccompanied personnel residents -- down from a peak of nearly 5000 active duty and family members.
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