Air Station Mobile
In the early sixties, the Coast Guard realized the need for a standardized pilot/aircrew training program. After the introduction of the turbine-powered HH52A helicopter in 1963, such a program, originally designated as the Basic Operational Training Unit (BOTU), was formed at Coast Guard Air Station Savannah, Georgia.
HU-25 "Guardian" jet aircraft stand alert duty in support of the Eighth Coast Guard District missions including Search and Rescue, Marine Environmental Protection, and Enforcement of the Maritime Laws and Treaties.
In 1966, the vacant 232-acre Air Force Reserve facility located at Bates Field in Mobile was acquired by the Coast Guard. On 17 December 1966, Air Station Mobile was officially commissioned with the transfer of HU-16E "Albatross" aircraft from Air Station Biloxi, MS and establishment of the fixed-wing and rotary-wing pilot training units. Air Station Mobile became the Aviation Training Center and was designated a headquarters unit under the direct control of the Commandant of the Coast Guard.
Coast Guard Air Station Mobile is charged with a twofold Coast Guard operational function. The first is to provide Air Search and Rescue resources for the Gulf of Mexico from Cape San Blas, Florida to Sabine Pass, Texas. The second is to provide operational training type aircraft. Pilots with little or no experience in one type (helicopter or fixed wing) undergo both initial qualification and transitional training at this station. In addition, during summer months, an aviation professional training program is conducted at this station for cadets of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. At the time of its establishment, Air Station Mobile was the only Coast Guard pilot training school in the country.
The Helicopter Icebreaker Support Unit (IBSU), now known as the Polar Operations Division (POPDIV), was created at the air station in 1969. HH-65 "Dolphin" helicopters from POPDIV deploy aboard Coast Guard Icebreakers to both the Arctic and Antarctic regions where they support Coast Guard missions by flying scientific, logistic, and occasionally, SAR missions. POPDIV crews returned from an historic mission to the North Pole in 1994 aboard USCGC Polar Sea as the first U.S. surface ship and helicopter to reach 90 degrees North.
The Training Division provides initial and recurrent training to all Coast Guard HU-25, HH-65, and HH-60 pilots in addition to conducting aircrew training, and ensuring Coast Guard Air Stations and flight-deck equipped Coast Guard Cutters are mission ready. Each Coast Guard jet and helicopter pilot receives an initial transition into Coast Guard aircraft and returns once a year for a week of intensive refresher training on one of the three flight simulators located at ATC, including the new $25 million dollar HH-60 "Jayhawk"simulator.
With well over 400 active duty military, civilian and contract personnel, and a payroll of over 17 million dollars, the Aviation Training Center is one of the larger air units in the Coast Guard and is one of the largest non-industrial employers in the Mobile area.
With a focused vision, each of the eight divisions of the Aviation Training Center - Operations, Training, Polar Operations, Aviation Engineering, Health and Human Services, Comptroller, Services, and Facilities Engineering - work together as a team to support Coast Guard missions worldwide.
USCG Aviation Polar Operations is based at the Coast Guard Aviation Training Center in Mobile, Alabama. Polar Operations Division (POPDIV) provides Aviation Detachments (AVDETS) for worldwide deployments with the Coast Guard icebreaker fleet. Deployments are planned for a variety of tactical air support mission profiles and over extended periods. Each AVDET team consists of highly trained and motivated aircrews, mission capable / specific HH-65A aircraft, and integral maintenance / logistics support.
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