U.S. COAST GUARD
Rear Adm. Michael N. Parks, left, shakes hands with Rear Adm. Fred M. Midgette after Midgette relieved him as commander of the Ninth Coast Guard District during a change-of-command ceremony at the Cleveland Convention Center June 27.
At center is Vice Adm. Robert C. Parker, commander of the Coast Guard Atlantic Area, who presided over the ceremony.
to take the boats out of the water in the winter, otherwise they will get destroyed by the ice. So, at that point,
that skill set [search and rescue in fresh, open water]
slows in the winter and now we turn them into a whole
other set of skills, and that’s ice rescue. That’s a no-fail
mission and you can’t take that lightly.
Our aviators also have trouble staying proficient
because they can’t do [hoisting operations with boats]
year-round and flying over the ice is very different than flying over the water, so maintaining that proficiency is
extremely challenging for us as we go through the seasons.
Also our cutter fleet, especially our aids-to-navigation
units, is severely challenged because they have no down
time. They never get a time where they are not operating.
How does the icebreaking missions you have
in the Ninth District differ from the polar icebreaking done in the Arctic region?
PARKS: The icebreaking that happens here is all about
domestic icebreaking. It’s about facilitating commerce.
It’s about maintaining flood relief and it’s about being
available to have assets to do search and rescue if we
Our priorities are search and rescue, flood relief and
facilitate commerce, in that order. So our icebreakers
are ready for those types of cases, including one last
year where a snowmobiler was stuck on an ice floe and
an icebreaker was able to go save them. That is some-
thing that they are trained to do.
How has the Ninth District changed and
evolved during your tenure as commander?
PARKS: I think the changes we have experienced here are
also some of the changes that the rest of the Coast Guard
has experienced with [shrinking] budgets. We are continuing to try and find ways to work smarter, not harder.
One of the best things we have been able to do is
focus on the reduction of the loss of life on the Great
Lakes. It’s probably our most important responsibility, to