A Kodiak aircrew prepares a MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter to deploy to St. Paul in February of 2010. - U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer First Class Jeffrey Solomon

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Coast Guard deploys St. Paul unit for season

January 18th, 2013 | Hannah Heimbuch Print this article   Email this article  

The Coast Guard's forward operating location in St. Paul became operational as of Tuesday. Air Station Kodiak deployed two of its MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crews to the southwest Alaska island in order to better safeguard the winter fisheries operating in the Bering Sea.

The seasonal base allows the Coast Guard to respond to emergencies much faster than they would be able to from their permanent locations. The higher volume vessels operating during the crabbing season warrant the increased effort, said a Coast Guard release.

"By staging search and rescue assets on St. Paul in conjunction with increased seasonal crabbing and fishing activity nearby, we significantly decrease our response time to distress calls," said Capt. Gregory Sanial, chief of response for the Coast Guard 17th District. "The forward operating location has been a successful life-saving strategy time and time again."

It in fact eliminates a six-hour transit time as well as a one-hour refueling stop. Those saved hours are a significant improvement considering the life and death conditions common in marine emergencies. While winter is the busiest time of year for many Bering Sea fisheries, it also holds the worst weather. The Coast Guard responds to those conditions each year with forward operating locations. The high endurance Coast Guard Cutter Munro, based in Kodiak, will also deploy to the Bering Sea region, outfitted with an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew from Kodiak.


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