Only the Coast Guard Would Have Me with Captain Sean MacKenzie - The Alaska Show Podcast #1

Welcome to The Alaska Show Podcast! Seeing how Alaska really lives and works through the eyes of our exceptional people. 

For our first episode we sit down with Captain Sean MacKenzie, head of Coast Guard Sector Anchorage. He talks to us about the extensive missions the Coast Guard has throughout Western Alaska and takes us through his storied career that has taken him from overseeing the NY Harbor on 9/11, to Operation Iraqi Freedom in the Arabian Gulf, to Washington DC and Brussels, to counter-narcotics operations in the South Pacific, and finally to overseeing the bulk of Coast Guard operations in Alaska.

Your hosts Josiah Coe and Alex Trokey also discuss the Coronavirus evacuee stopover at Ted Stevens International Airport, the Anchorage doctor found guilty of dentisting while on a hoverboard, and announce upcoming events including the Ice Art Championships in Fairbanks and the Ice Climbing Festival in Valdez.

Introduction, Events and News (1:41)

Interview with Captain Sean MacKenzie (9:51)

Also check out "The Homer Alaska Podcast" wherever you listen to podcasts!

Interview Notes

Captain MacKenzie oversees Sector Anchorage with over 600 personnel under him

Career taken him from Northeast to New York Harbor on 9/11 to Iraq to California to Germany to Alaska

38 sectors in the Coast Guard

He was Coast Guard liaison to European command

Most people think the Coast Guard only does search and rescue in Alaska

Based on JBER in Anchorage

Fairly significant Coast Guard presence in Valdez with small boats, patrol boat, vessel inspection unit, and support element

Valdez has 125 people and Anchorage only has about 100 - terminus of the TAPS terminal makes it a key place

In 2014 the Coast Guard moved to JBER for better communications and use of other military infrastructure like force protection and medical care

The main Coast Guard Missions in Alaska are:

- Search and Rescue

- Law Enforcement and Fisheries Enforcement - enforcing fishing regulations

- Oil Pollution Response - keeping Alaska's environment pristine

- Facilities Inspections - inspecting things like bulk oil fuel facilities on maritime nexus

- Waterways Management - organizing traffic so everyone in a community can have safe access through waterways

- Vessel Inspections - proactively inspecting vessels for safety from deep draft to fishing vessels

- Investigations - if there is a marine casualty the Coast Guard inspects

Marine Safety Task Force

- Over 400 bulk oil storage facilities across western Alaska

- Typical village will have 4+ 12,500 gallon heating fuel storage tanks

- Much of this infrastructure is aging and number of oil spills are increasing

- This is a "trainwreck in slow motion"

- Marine Safety Task force is Sector Anchorage's pitch to get more resources to get these facilities inspected annually or bi-annually and help get funding to resolve issues

Captain MacKenzie born in Asheville, NC

The Coast Guard Academy was the only military academy that accepted him into college

Coast Guard Academy has changed culture to lower attrition rate from 50% when Captain MacKenzie went to school

Out of the Academy he worked a buoy tender in the Hudson River

Then Executive Officer of a 110-ft boat in 1994

Went and got a MBA in Financial Management in William and Mary with his wife Dorothy

Then did a financial tour

July 2001 took over command of 110-foot patrol boat ADAK

On 9/11/2001 ADAK was repairing steering system in Sandy Hook New Jersey and got the word a plane crashed into the World Trade Center

Cell phone towers were on the twin towers so the cell phones didn’t work

First coast guard ship on the scene and designate command of New York Harbor

On 9/11 had to facilitate emergency response logistics and stop people from entering Manhattan through the harbor

In command of the harbor through the first 12 hours after the World Trade Center attack

Other buildings fell down around the twin towers

The wind switched and blew ash and smoke into the harbor for a period

The Coast Guard responsibilities changed after 9/11 from fisheries law enforcement boat to homeland security

Trained for four months to deploy to Iraq: weapons training, doing ship maintenance, adding guns to the ship, gun shoots underway, chemical weapons training, and medical training

Loaded 4 110-foot patrol boats onto a commercial vessel and took them to Bahrain, then went to Arabian Gulf

The Coast Guard shifts and operates under the Navy during times of war. The Navy doesn’t build 110-foot patrol boats with knowledge that if they need them they will get them from the Coast Guard. They have a standard Navy communication suite on those ships, standard weapons and ammo, and crypto gear.

Mission in Iraq was to engage Iraq’s one patrol boat if necessary

Pulled three Iraqi POWs from sunken ship out of water

Did a congressional affairs tour in Washington, DC after Iraq

Then was stationed in Coronado, CA to do counter-narcotics operations

Took over as skipper on leased Seal Team 179-foot patrol boat that could do 36 knots painted with camouflage

Caught cocaine smugglers with two-boat boarding operation

Primarily caught fishing boats which only did 6-8 knots

Intercepted over 7 tons of cocaine worth hundreds of millions of dollars

Coast Guard ships as temporary floating prisons

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