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Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak begins summer transfer season

A Coast Guard HC-130 lands at Kodiak's Benny Benson State Airport near Buskin Beach.
A Coast Guard HC-130 lands at Kodiak's Benny Benson State Airport near Buskin Beach.

Summer is just around the corner and with it brings another transfer season for the Coast Guard’s Air Station Kodiak. That’s when the base has the majority of its people transfer on and off the island.

The Coast Guard has a major presence on the island with over 500 enlisted personnel, and that doesn’t even include their families. Coast Guard members can transfer pretty much any time of year, but the biggest shifts in personnel happen between May and August.

This year, that includes one of Air Station Kodiak’s public information officers, Ian Gray.

“It’s been a lot of fun to be a public affairs specialist, let alone be stationed in a place like Alaska,” he said. “Just the opportunities that I’ve had since I’ve been here have just been so amazing.”

He’s been taking a lot of the photos for the Coast Guard and occasionally has been a spokesperson for news outlets.

Gray’s career started serving in larger cities like near Los Angeles, but he’s been in town for just shy of two years. That’s about a year less than normal – Air Station Kodiak is usually a 3 year assignment.

Gray said he’s transferring to live near Washington D.C. next and that he’s going to miss the small town feel of the island community.

“You have more options to go to dinner or you got Costco and all that stuff, but I think the thing I’ll miss the most is just that it’s so easy to do things here,” he said. “You can kind of do things on a whim and living in a big city, you can’t necessarily do that.”

Base officials would not disclose how many people are transferring this year for security reasons, but that’s the sentiment for a lot of coasties getting ready to transfer. Transfer season usually means prominent community figures end up leaving.

Scott Witherow is a Coast Guard avionics electronics technician for his day job but regularly sells at the farmer’s market on the side. He and his wife run Witherb Sourdough, a cottage bakery that sells sourdough breads.

“We started selling bread at the farmers market over at the fairgrounds,” Witherow said.

That was over a decade ago in his first stay in Kodiak. Witherow’s family was then transferred to California where he paused his side-hustle, and returned to the local air station in 2019.

Witherow is now wrapping up his second assignment on the island next month. Now, He’s transferring back to California. He said while he’s excited to see more sun and be closer to his brother, the move is still bittersweet.

“I’m going to miss just the little things like the smell of blooming spruce on a late summer afternoon,” Witherow said. “Or being able to walk outside your door and not hear cars and just, you have the sound of the silence of nature – you don’t get that in other places.”

Air Station Kodiak officials said despite the changeovers every summer, readiness is not affected and they should be able to serve at full capacity.