The commanding officer of Coast Guard Sector Juneau stressed the importance of Southeast Alaska’s waterways and the critical nature of teamwork at a Chamber of Commerce luncheon Thursday.
“I don’t have a lot of resources to cover a vast area. That’s the story for everyone up here. We have a huge area to cover and not a lot of assets,” said Capt. Stephen White during the luncheon videoconference. “Teamwork is the only way to make it work up here.”
Sector Juneau has more than 250 personnel spread across 10 field commands and detachments, White said. It is responsible for more than 10,000 miles of coastline, according to Sector Juneau’s website. White hammered on the need for teamwork to protect communities within that broad area, especially within emergency responders.
“No organization is awesome by themselves,” White said. “They might be great by themselves, but as far as serving the public, we’re way better if we’re together and working together.”
The Coast Guard often works with Capital City Fire/Rescue in Juneau to coordinate searches and rescues, assisting with medevacs in areas most agencies have difficulty reaching in the vast reach of the Southeast, such as when they rescued an injured child Wednesday night near Haines and transported him to Bartlett Regional Hospital.
“As the Coast Guard, we’re looking at the risks we have to address,” White said. “Up here, there are many.”
White also talked about the importance of the sea to the Southeast.
“You can see what makes Alaska work, it’s the water. They’re the veins that bring lifeblood to the communities,” White said. “You guys in Juneau know how important that water is.”
Fishing and foreign vessels make up a huge part of the commerce and traffic in the region, White said.
“Alaska had $221 million in commercial fishing gross earnings last year. If Alaska was a country, it’d be the 9th largest producer of seafood in the world,” White said. “There were 1,300 foreign vessel arrivals in 2019.”
White also talked about his primary objective, the safety of the community, during the coronavirus.
“We want to have people be productive and be safe. That’s a good overall objective that brings us all together,” White said. “Things are getting harder. But that’s when good people do their best work. I think when we look back on this historic time as something we can be proud of.”
• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at 757-621-1197 or firstname.lastname@example.org.