Air Station Sitka
Coast Guard Air Station Sitka, is manned by 20 officers and 100 enlisted personnel. The station's area of responsibility extends throughout the "gateway" of what is called America's "last frontier"--more than 500 miles from Dixon Entrance to Cordova. Rapid development and expanding coastal communities are characteristic of Southeast Alaska. Air Station Sitka's 3 HH-3F's log an annual average of 2100 hours. These Sikorsky-built helicopters carry a standard crew of four, comprised of a pilot, co-pilot, flight mechanic, and radioman, and seats for seven passengers. The helicopters cruise at 120 knots and can carry fuel for five and one-half hours.
In a "ready" status 24 hours a day for search and rescue, the crew and helicopters are also used for maintaining 39 marine aids-to-navigation along the rugged coastline and "inside" passage, fisheries laws enforcement patrols, enforcement of laws and treaties, and various other missions in cooperation with federal, state, and local government agencies. Additionally, the aircraft are often utilized for medevacs from outlying native communities and logging camps.
Coast Guard Air Station Sitka is located on 165 acres of property owned by the Coast Guard. The physical plant consists of a hangar complex, a barracks/ medical facility, a NAFA building, and fifteen family housing quadruplexes. In addition, there are several outbuildings serving various purposes such as storage, fuel pumproom, and a deluge pump building. The facilities are located immediately adjacent to the Sitka Municipal Airport and near the Mt. Edgecombe USPHS Hospital. Coast Guard floating units also tie up to a Coast Guard dock located on Japonski Island.
The first Coast Guard Air Station in Alaska's windy, cold, and rain swept Southeastern panhandle was established on Annette Island in March 1944. The Air Detachment consisted of Lieutenant Commander J.J. MCCUE, one other pilot, five enlisted crewmembers, and one aircraft, a Grumman JRF, No. 228. In the succeeding 33 years, aircrews from Annette Island performed SAR, law enforcement, and logistics missions throughout Southeast Alaska utilizing JRF, PBY5AG, HU16E, HH52A, and HH3F aircraft. Throughout this period Sitka, Alaska was a prominent refueling and staging point used by the Annette based Coast Guard aircraft.
In 1977 the Coast Guard Air Station was relocated from Annette Island to Sitka, Alaska which was more centrally located in the Southeastern Alaska operating area. In March of 1977, the barracks and hangar on Japanski Island in the immediate vicinity of Sitka were completed, and the move of personnel and equipment from Annette Island to Sitka began. On April 19, 1977, flight operations for the three Sikorsky HH3F's were shifted to Sitka. On Alaska Day, October 17, 1977, United States Coast Guard Air Station, Sitka, was officially commissioned.
Sitka, with its population of approximately 8,000, is the largest community on the west coast of 1,607-square-mile Baranof Island. It is also the fourth largest community in Alaska. It is 95 air miles southwest of Juneau, 185 air miles northwest of Ketchikan, 590 air miles southeast of Anchorage, and almost 900 air miles north of Seattle. Sitka is centrally located on both water and air passages between the United States mainland and the Far East. Modern Sitka is a thriving community strategically located on the shipping and air lanes between the Lower 48 states and Canada and the growing Asia-Pacific Region.
The Sitka area is historically the location of a large Tlingit Indian year-round village. That complex and rich culture was supplemented and impacted by Western culture in the late eighteenth century when Russian fur traders arrived both to trade and later to occupy the area. By 1799 Sitka Sound was a favored trading spot for Euro American traders. The Russians considered the predominantly British and American traders to be intruders in their domain. In late 1804 the Russians built a new settlement, called Novo Archangelsk or New Archangel although generally known as Sitka, at the site of the Tlingit village at Castle Hill. In August 1808 New Archangel became the capital city of Russian America and the administrative center for the Russian American Company that had been chartered by the Russian government in 1799 to be its sole fur trader in North America. The Russian settlement differed from most others in the New World in the 1700s and the 1800s because it was established by employees of a company who came to do a job instead of seeking religious freedom or to seek homes for themselves. By the 1860s Russia's interest in North America was waning. Russian and United States representatives signed a treaty to sell Russian America to the United States for $7.2 million on March 29, 1867.
Sitka had been the scene of an army garrison from 1867 to 1877. After the army pulled out, a series of naval installations were located in Sitka. Most of them were located on nearby Japonski Island, which had been established as a naval reservation by the 1890 presidential proclamation that had also reserved the public park on Indian River. Sitka was an anchorage for a navy ship from 1879 to 1897, host to a Marine Barracks from 1884 to 1912, locus for a naval hospital from 1904 to 1912, and home community to a naval radio station from 1907 to the early 1930s. For most of these years there was a navy coal pile located on Japonski Island.
The navy designated its old reservation on Japonski Island as the Naval Seaplane Base, Sitka, in 1937, and the Fleet Air Base, Sitka, in February 1938. In September of 1939, although only a few contractors' buildings were in place on Japonski Island, the navy designated its Sitka facility as a Naval Air Station. Ultimately 65 percent of 155 separate projects at a total cost of 25 million dollars would be completed in and around Sitka.
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