JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. , –
The U.S. Coast Guard has three strike teams, one of which is the Atlantic Strike Team located at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey.
AST professionals are responsible for maintaining and rapidly deploying with specialized equipment to any hazard in order to protect the health of the public and the environment.
“We are responsible for the response to oil discharges, hazardous substance releases, weapons of mass destruction events, and other emergencies,” said U.S. Coast Guard Marine Science Technician 1st Class James Weldon, AST response supervisor. “If asked, we can even deploy internationally for any incident that may require our help.”
The AST functions as a special team within the National Response System and assists the U.S. Coast Guard, Environmental Protection Agency and other federal agencies while executing responsibilities under the National Contingency Plan and the National Response Plan.
“In 2017, we had multiple hurricanes that happened within a month span,” Weldon said. “We were requested to go to the Gulf Coast so we could help organize a particular response for that. We helped out our Coast Guard sector down there by completing various environmental assessments. We stood up an Incident Command Post, then worked together with the state partners and other government agencies to try to reopen the port and minimize any potential environmental threats in the area.”
Being located at Joint Base MDL helps advance AST’s rigorous training program, equip AST professionals with hazardous response skills and maintain mission readiness.
“We have been able to work well with the base by using the ranges and making sure we are all prepared for the worst,” said Marine Science Technician 1st Class Audrey Gurganus, AST chemistry shop member. “The training prepares us to respond to a hazardous materials incident should we be requested for it.”
“Our training is necessary to keep ourselves safe as responders, but also it's to protect the community at large, or a specific set of the public sector,” Weldon said. “That's what we're here for.”