Thirty-five years ago, Coast Guard seaman Robert J. Papp Jr. flew to Adak, Alaska to begin his career on the USCG cutter Ironwood. Now the commandant of the Coast Guard, Adm. Papp stopped in Juneau Monday on a mission to the Arctic.
"It is lovely to be here again," he said. "Thirty-four years is too long. I spent one night here on the Ironwood as we passed through from Adak - this is a real treat for me to be able to stop here now."
Papp spoke to the buoy tenders in Juneau on Sunday afternoon, and addressed the 200-plus Coast Guard personnel stationed in Juneau on Monday at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Hall, before departing north.
"I see the Coast Guard evolving but it is going to be tough for all federal agencies over the next couple years until the budget starts turning around," Papp said. "I think the Coast Guard will fare OK because we demonstrate on a daily basis the return on investment that we give the citizens of this country, and it's no where more evident than it is up here in Alaska."
Papp is traveling to Kotzebue with U.S. Sen. Mark Begich to meet regional leaders and to review Operation Arctic Crossroads, a joint operational exercise involving several federal agencies including Coast Guard, Air Force, Air National Guard, Army, Army National Guard and the Public Health Service.
"The challenge that we face up here, of course, is that there is a lot more open water as the ice is receding," Papp said. "How we deal with that is what I am up here to take a look at. We certainly have responsibilities up there to patrol that water. Right now we don't have the resources to do it. I need to identify those resources, let the administration know what we need to be able to take care of for those responsibilities up there, and then work with the administration and Congress to try and get the resources.
Papp became the 24th commandant of the Coast Guard in May. He oversees the largest component of the Department of Homeland Security with 42,000 active duty, 8,200 Reserve, 8,000 civilian and 31,000 volunteer auxiliary members.
Contact Klas Stolpe at email@example.com