by Tech. Sgt. John Gordinier
Alaskan Command Public Affairs
5/12/2015 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Alaskan
Command and U.S. Coast Guard District 17 hosted an Arctic General
Officer/Flag Officer (GO/FO) Conference April 29 - May 1, which included
flag officers and senior enlisted leaders from the U.S. Air Force, U.S.
Army, U.S. Coast Guard, Alaska National Guard and Canadian Forces, to
strengthen partnerships and discuss future Arctic and Alaskan challenges
and joint capabilities.
"The GO/FO conference presents an ideal way to bring Department of
Defense and Department of Homeland Security leaders together to discuss
current and future Arctic issues and challenges," said Lt. Gen. Russ
Handy, commander of Alaskan Command. "This is particularly pertinent
for us, given the recent transition of the chairmanship of the Arctic
Council to the U.S."
"Another purpose of the conference is to increase capabilities, bring
forces together from a variety of different components, joint and
coalition, in order to increase our understanding and collective
capabilities," Handy continued. "That way, if a crisis occurs and you
are thrust into a partnership and leadership responsibility, we will be
better prepared and understand each other's capabilities to enhance our
ability to save lives and shift the tide of a contingency."
For this GO/FO conference, the attendees visited U.S. Coast Guard Base
Kodiak, Alaska, to better understand Alaska Coast Guard capabilities,
assets, missions, as well as present and future challenges.
"Our units work very closely with District 17 on a daily basis," said
Handy. "This conference will help us all understand what they do
day-to-day. Also, our Canadian partners have a big area of
responsibility and it's right next to ours, so we have to be ready at a
moment's notice to partner on large issues in the context of an evolving
Arctic environment. These issues are becoming more and more important
so we need to build those relationships and it is better to build them
in the context of a learning environment versus during a catastrophe or
The conference itinerary included briefings on Coast Guard missions,
operations area, and assets and responsibilities by Rear Admiral Daniel
Abel, District 17 commander, and Captain Jeffery Westling, Base Kodiak
commander. The attendees toured Kodiak's North Pacific Regional
Fisheries Training Center, which is a school house designed to educate
Coast Guardsmen on their job responsibilities such as Alaska fishing
rules and regulations, types of fish in Alaskan waters and proper
emergency and water survival gear.
After the schoolhouse visit the flag officers and senior enlisted
leaders toured the Cutter MUNRO and Buoy Tender SPAR maritime vessels.
They were briefed by several Coast Guardsmen on ship performance,
missions, capabilities and the daily life aboard the ships in Alaska.
After touring the Coast Guard's maritime assets, the group viewed air
assets at the air station, with briefings and static displays of the
C-130 Hercules, UH-60 Jayhawks and UH-65 Dolphins by aircrew and rescue
"There is some heroic Coast Guard activity here in Kodiak," Handy said.
"This was the perfect place to conduct the GO/FO conference. During the
Coast Guard tour we were thinking, 'wow, I didn't know that' or 'that's
interesting, how can that apply to this emergency situation?' What the
Coast Guard does in Alaska is very strategically important."
"As a leader, you never want the first conversation to be in the moment
of crisis," said Royal Canadian Navy Rear Admiral William S. Truelove,
commander of Maritime Forces Pacific/Joint Task Force-Pacific. "You want
to have (relationships built) in advance and it's through mechanisms
like these that make that happen. Whatever future (possible) scenarios
we are talking about, when it hits, it's not going to recognize any