An H-60 Helicopter sits in front of the large helicopter repair and maintenance hangar at the Coast Guard station on Kodiak Island. It’s on ready alert, fueled up and prepared to take off at a moment’s notice. Whether it’s a fishing boat in distress, a lost hiker, a wandering oil rig, or a remote village medical emergency, the pilots, cutter crews, maintenance crews, and rescue specialists of the Coast Guard are available around the clock to perform their errands of mercy.
They also monitor commercial fishing, keep an eye out for environmental disasters such as oil spills, and perform routine maintenance on buoys and other marine navigational aids. It’s a big job, especially when you consider that the Kodiak station is responsible for some four million square miles.
It is also a challenging and dangerous job. If you have watched the Weather Channel series, Coast Guard Alaska, you are aware that Alaska has some of the most severe weather in the world and that the Coast Guard teams are expected to perform their rescue efforts in almost all weather conditions. Think of trying to rescue someone off of a moving boat in high waves with low visibility, high winds, extreme cold and driving rain.
When we arrived in Kodiak, our son Tony had just completed his first year of a three-year assignment in Alaska as a Coast Guard pilot for the long-range H-60 helicopters. With three tours in Iraq as a Marine Helicopter pilot and several years of flying H-60s out of San Diego for the Coast Guard, he came to Alaska well qualified for his duties in Kodiak and at remote locations such as the island of St. Paul north of the Aleutian Archipelago.
In addition to touring us around the island and taking us fishing, Tony gave us a tour of the base and the helicopter maintenance facility. Cammie and the boys came with us.
NEXT BLOG: Some of my favorite Kodiak photographs.