Posted by:calpoppy, 3:09 PM GMT on November 06, 2012
Kodiak Air Station with Barometer Mtn. shrouded with clouds.
Kodiak Island ‘The Rock’ as it is called is the second largest island in the United
States and home to the biggest Coast Guard base. A former Naval base during WWll, the base was commissioned in 1941. Kodiak supported the Aleutian Island campaign of 1943, which was operating scouting and air transports. In 1972 the Navy turned over the base to the Coast Guard.
Picture courtesy of MissNadia!
Kodiak’s Air Station primary mission is to provide aerial search and rescue to a daunting 4,000,000 sq. mile area. Which includes the Gulf of Alaska, Bristol Bay, the Bering Sea and the Alaskan Pacific coast.
This is what is left of the sign from a rescue, which almost cost the lives of the 3-crew members on the HH-60J helicopter and did cost the lives of 6 of the 7-crew members that had been rescued from the sinking ship.
The Selendang Ayu was a Malaysian cargo ship that was carrying soybeans from Seattle to China. It ran aground off of Unalaska Island in the western Aleutian chain (close to Joealaska territory). The Coast Guard from Kodiak came on the seen to start the rescue of the crewmembers of the ship. The 60 helicopter had already picked up 7 crewmembers and as they went down to pick up the eighth a rogue wave crashed over the bow of the ship and engulfed the engine of the helicopter. This caused the engine of the helicopter to flame out and the 60 crashed into the sea. A HH65B Dolphin helicopter rescued the three-crew members of the helicopter and one of the crewmembers of the ship that had been on board the 60. Later that night the HH65 Dolphin helicopter returned to get the remaining crewmember and the rescue swimmer who had remained on the sinking ship. The ship by that time had broken in half. They searched for the 6-crew members who had been in the helicopter when it crashed and were unable to find them. The crew of the Dolphin helicopter received the Distinguished Flying Cross for their heroic actions.
The biggest rescue for Coast Guard Kodiak was the factory fishing boat Alaskan Ranger. There were 47 crewmembers on the boat when it started to sink. 42 crewmembers were rescued in an amazing tale of courage and duty on the part of the Coast Guard aircrews that night!
The first Jayhawk helicopter on site (HH-60J) pulled up 14 fishermen! There were 17 people in the helicopter! I have been inside this aircraft twice, once in Clearwater, Florida and again in Kodiak and I can’t imagine having that many full sized people in dry suits aboard!!! Between the Dolphin, the 60 and another fishing boat they rescued the 42-crew members. This was in high winds, snow squalls and heavy waves and it was dark.
I learned about this rescue from a book called ‘The Deadliest Sea” by Kalee Thompson. An excellent book that tells the whole story of both the rescue and why some of the crewmembers died. Some of the crewmembers were new to being on a fishing boat. A couple of them had just arrived from California and had never seen snow let alone an ocean full of ice. They were also never taught how to put on a dry suit and this cost them their lives. A dry suit keeps the water from coming in contact with your skin so it delays hypothermia, if there is a tear or if the suit is put on incorrectly water seeps in. All the crewmembers in the helicopter wear dry suits.
The Coast Guard in Kodiak also Medevac people in need to hospitals that are inaccessible to them.
The Coast Guard was the unknown part of the military for years and years. They had to deal with old equipment, boats and planes. Until Hurricane Katrina. The Coast Guard showed the world what they could do, and finally congress appropriated more money to them. New boats finally!!! And TV shows! The Weather Channel has Coast Guard Kodiak. With another show from a Coast Guard base in Florida. If you have watched Coast Guard Kodiak you would have certainly met Claude. He is one tall guy! My son is 6’4” and Claude towers over him! I met him at the exchange this last August and I can see why he is on the show. Personality, commitment and physically in shape, he walked into the exchange and everyone knew Claude was there!!
In order to be in aviation a coastie has to go through 5 months of intensive training at A school or Aviation school in Elizabeth City, NC. If you saw the movie “The Guardian” you would have seen some of the real life instructors at A school.
My son is a flight mech or flight mechanic. He is the one that hoists the rescue swimmer and the rescued people up into the helicopter. Not the job that most people talk about when they talk coasties, but the rescue swimmers want the best person for that job. Their lives are on the line with the guy who hoists the cable. When a flight mech is not flying he is working on the helicopters that he will fly in, keeping them in top shape. Rescue swimmers spend their time training and keeping their equipment in shape.
This is where the Flight Mech and the Rescue Swimmer sit.
My son explaining the equipment to us.
The Dolphin helicopter is usually deployed from boats. It does not have the distance capabilities as does the HH60.
When a hurricane comes please heed the warnings to get out of harms way! When you have to get rescued ,people like my son put their lives in danger to save yours!!!
C-130 checking out it's engines.
Coast Guard boat in Old Women Bay.
In order to get to Jewel beach or many other activities at the base you get to walk or drive across the runway!
I hope you all have enjoyed my blogs on Alaska. We certainly enjoyed being up there!!