Military News

Thursday, May 21, 2015

ALCOM, USCG District 17 host Arctic General Officer/Flag Officer conference

by Tech. Sgt. John Gordinier
Alaskan Command Public Affairs

5/20/2015 - 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 crisis."

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 swimmers.

"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 borders."

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