Keeping Our (Hawk) Eyes Open

Monday, March 19, 2012

“Fat Albert” secured in his ground station home in the Florida Keys. Photograph © Jeffrey C. Carrier. Used with permission.

Among the many operational tasks performed by members of Auxiliary Flotilla’s in Big Pine Key and Key West, Florida is the assistance Auxiliary members provide to Coast Guard Sector Key West in standing “Hawkeye” watches. These special watch standers assist the Coast Guard with maintaining port security in the busy region of southernmost Florida, an active area for recreational boating activity and for the transit of international boat and ship traffic.

By Auxiliarist Jeffrey C. Carrier, Big Pine Key, FL

Coast Guard Sector Key West must routinely deal with illegal immigrants and potential drug smugglers. News reports abound with tales of successful interdiction by ever-vigilant Coast Guard assets from Key West, Marathon, and Islamorada.  Auxiliary Hawkeye watch standers are often involved with these incidents and lend their assistance to active duty Coast Guard in identifying vessels that might require closer scrutiny.

“Fat Albert” – a Tethered Aerostat Radar System – in “flight” above Cudjoe Key in the Florida Keys. Photograph © Jeffrey C. Carrier. Used with permission.

Among the assets available to the Coast Guard is “Fat Albert,” an aerial observation platform, most commonly called a blimp, but among more technically savvy personnel, called a Tethered Aerostat Radar System (TARS). An asset of the United States Air Force, a series of balloons are positioned from California to Florida and Puerto Rico, providing unbroken radar coverage along the entire southern border of the US.

Team Coast Guard from Sector Key West, including Auxiliary members, as well as local firefighters and law enforcement personnel, were treated to a First Responder Open House, to observe the care and feeding of Fat Albert, a term given to the blimp decades ago by locals accustomed to seeing the ship flying above its home on Cudjoe Key. Visitors to the Cudjoe Key facility were shown the procedures to recover the blimp and were instructed on procedures for securing the scene in the event of a breakaway and downing of the blimp in local waters to protect the public from the many lines and support equipment associated with the balloon.

Auxiliarist Bob McNamee of Big Pine Key, observes the recovery process of “Fat Albert.” Photograph © Jeffrey C. Carrier. Used with permission.

Fat Albert is another hard working and never-tiring “watch stander” used by Team Coast Guard, and integrates with active duty Coast Guard and Auxiliary personnel to assure safe boating and port security in this busy region of south Florida.

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  1. Tom Clark says:

    Hey, hey, hey, I wanna be a Hawkeye.

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