Thirteen people from the U.S. Coast Guard in Alaska are now in Texas helping with rescue and response in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.
Two H-60 helicopter pilots, two flight mechanics and a rescue swimmer from Air Station Sitka are helping with the response in the Texas area.
They will provide relief to other helicopter crews that have been flying since the start of the disaster.
Petty Officer Jon-Paul Rios said those five Coast Guardsmen signed up earlier to help out.
But the final decision to let them go rested with the air station’s commanding officer.
“You have to remember, we still have a major mission here in Alaska. Not only for Alaska, but anywhere where there’s a Coast guard presence,” Rios said. “We all have a job to do. We all have a mission to complete. So, ultimately, it comes down to the commanding officer to determine: ‘Hey, if I were to give up five guys, would the rest of our guys still be able to maintain this mission?’ And, if so, if they’re capable of doing that, then they’ll give up the guys. If not, then we’re going to have to look somewhere else for those personnel.”
Eight other personnel from Alaska will also help out in the Texas area for two to three weeks. They include a yeoman from Base Kodiak, a public affairs specialist from District 17, a marine science technician, and other officers who will take on planning and response duties at the incident command center.
Rios said some of those Coast Guardsmen may not know what they’re doing until they report to their new commanding officer.
“Everybody is interchangeable when it comes to the Coast Guard mission. Everybody can pretty much do the same job on the most part, especially when it comes to working on a response like this,” Rios said. “I can’t give you an exact idea of what they’ll be doing. It just depends when they get there. They’ll be able to show those that they’re working for, explain their specialty, what they’re able to do, also what their qualifications are. From there, they’ll take those people and plug them into the appropriate place.”
There are 1,858 active duty Coast Guardsmen stationed in Alaska. An additional 642 personnel in Alaska work for the Coast Guard as reservists, auxiliarists and civilian employees.
Rios said Coast Guard commanders in Alaska have not yet received any requests for equipment, like helicopters or boats. He believes that’s because there’s already other available equipment that is closer to the scene