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Coast Guard Air Station Houston

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Unit History



1963 (Dec. 23) Coast Guard Air Station Houston is commissioned. Located on one acre at Ellington AFB, 17 miles SE of downtown Houston. Two HH-52 helicopters, seven officer/pilots, and 18 enlisted mechanics/aircrewmen set up shop in 24,000 foot hangar built in 1942 CDR David W. Difreest, Commanding Officer. An alternative site at Scholes Field, Galveston TX, was considered up until the actual commissioning at Ellington. AIRSTA's commissioning coincides with the beginning of development of Clear Lake City as a business and residential community surrounding the blossoming NASA complex, then called the Manned Spacecraft Center.

1964 AIRSTA assists Texas Department of Health in battling an encephalitis epidemic in the Houston area. Coast Guard helicopters drop more than 10,000 pounds of insecticide.

1965 AIRSTA helicopters routinely hoist Gemini astronauts, undergoing egress training from their space capsules in the Gulf during the drills.

1965 (Sept) Two AIRSTA helicopters deploy to New Orleans to assist people stranded by Hurricane Betsy.

1967 (Sept) AIRSTA helicopters rescue 451 people from rooftops, trees and "other places of peril" during and after Hurricane "Beulah".

1974 AIRSTA receives its third helicopter.

1975 (Aug) GLOBTIK SUN, a 734-foot British tanker, rams and unmanned oil rig off Galveston, setting both ablaze. AIRSTA helos transport injured to shore, search for missing crewmen, and conduct pollution overflights.

1978 AIRSTA receives its fourth helicopter for support of pollution patrol effort and increased shipboard deployments during law enforcement patrols. Helicopters deploy 21 weeks annually on the average. Station personnel now number 60.

1979 (May) RANGER I drilling platform collapses 12 miles south of Galveston. AIRSTA searches for survivors.

1979 (July) AIRSTA helicopters fly flood relief missions in SE Texas following Tropical Storm Claudette.

1979 (Nov) Burmah Agate, a tanker carrying 16 million gallons of oil, collides with the freighter Mimosa off Galveston. AIRSTA helicopters rescue 27 crewmen from the burning vessels and fly more than 115.6 hours searching for the 31 missing crewmen and on pollution over-flights. The Burmah Agate burns for 69 days.

1980 Air Station helicopter and crew deploy to South Florida to assist other Coast Guard and government units with the "Cuban Refugee Exodus." personnel assigned to these deployments received the Humanitarian Service Medal.

1982-1984 Studies conducted to determine if AIRSTA should be renovated, relocated to Scholes Field, or housed in new hangar to be built at Ellington.

1983 (Aug) Hurricane Alicia devastates the Houston/Galveston area. AIRSTA weathered the storm with two helos battened down in the hanger (a third was deployed on CGC Valiant) and half the crew remaining on board. Post storm flights assisting stranded residents, delivering food, water and medical supplies, and surveying aid-to-navigation damage, total 52 hours. Damage to AIRSTA has significant impact on relocation studies. AIRSTA helos have rendered assistance following violent storms and hurricanes more than nine times since 1963, including Gulfport, MI (1969); Brownsville, TX (1978); and Corpus Christi (1980).

1984 (July 1) Ellington AFB formally turned over the city of Houston and renamed Ellington Field.

1984 (Aug) Within a two-week span, two separate environmental incidents threaten the Houston/Galveston area. 1700 quart-size bottles of toxic pesticide leak overboard from the containership Rio Nuquen, docked at the turning basin of the Houston Ship Channel. The British tanker, Alvenus, leaks hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil, after it runs aground in the Calcasieu Ship Channel off Cameron, LA. AIRSTA helos launch on numerous surveillance flights during both of these incidents.

1984-1985 Decision made to build new hangar at north end of Ellington Field on U.S. Government property. Spaw Glass of Houston to build hangar from plans drawn up by Lockwood, Andrews & Newnam, Inc.

1985 (Oct. 2) Ground breaking for new hangar at north end of Ellington Field.

1985 (Oct.) Jackup rig capsizes off Galveston. AIRSTA helos airlift survivors to shore.

1986 (Jan 17) Oil company helo crashes in mud off Sabine. AIRSTA helo and EMT from station Sabine rescue four men on board and fly injured personnel to hospital.

1986 (May) Although forecast days previously, sudden "microburst" thunderstorms catch many recreational boaters off guard on Lake Livingston and Galveston Bay. Rapid response by AIRSTA helos along with other Coast Guard, Auxiliary and county rescue units resulted in not a single life being lost on Galveston Bay.

1986 (Oct) Hollywood Marine barge burns for ten days at Intercontinental Terminal near San Jacinto Monument, closing down Houston Ship Channel for an unprecedented four days.

1986 (Dec) Texas City refinery fire kills one in chemical inferno reminiscent of twin-ship explosion and fire that flattened the city almost forty years ago.

1987 (May 26) beneficial occupancy for completed new hangar.

1987(June 18) Dedication of new AIRSTA.

1988 (Nov 10) First HH-65A helicopter arrives.

1989 (March 17) Air Station operational with four HH-65A helicopters.

1989 (April 2) Last HH-52A departs Air Station.

1989 (Aug 1) Air Station helos rescue 14 people from three different capsized fishing vessels during Hurricane Chantal. Two helos penetrate the eye of the storm to reach 7 of these at the Sabine Jetty and to return to base.

1990 (Feb 1) Air Station becomes operational with rescue swimmers. Five swimmers assigned.

1990 (June 9) Tanker Mega Borg explodes 60 miles south of Galveston in the lightering area. This begins two weeks of intense operations with 17 hours flown by unit aircraft, temporary assignment of HC-130, HH-3F, and additional HH-65A aircraft, and the stockpiling of tons of pollution abatement equipment at the unit.

1990 (July 28) An Apex barge collides with the Greek tanker Shinoussa and runs aground off Redfish Reef and breaks open. This begins another two weeks of aerial monitoring and support involving over 75 flight hours. The 200th Year Coast Guard Day picnic attendance is light as many personnel are involved with spill response.

1990-1991 (Sept.-Feb.) Air Station Houston supports Operation Desert Shield/Storm with numerous over-flights of loading areas, the Houston Ship Channel, and the strategic oil reserve in Freeport, TX. Over three Army divisions deployed from the Houston area during this conflict with Iraq. All personnel assigned to the station were awarded the National Defense Service Medal.

1992 January Heavy rains throughout Texas swell the Trinity and Brazos rivers and associated tributaries. The Brazos rises 35 Feet and floods much of Brazoria County. Air Station Houston provides multiple flights each day over a two-week period to assist Coast Guard surface teams and local authorities.

1993 March The "storm of the Century" hits the Gulf Coast on 12-13 March. Air Station Houston responded by saving 6 lives and 2 vessels and assisting others over an 18-hour period as heavy storms spawned life-threatening seas and skies.

1994 October Remnants of Hurricane Rosa dump more than 25 inches of rain on the Houston area from 18-31 October causing widespread flooding along the San Jacinto River. Air Station Houston responded by evacuating over 450 people from the flooded region. Oil and gas pipelines, which crossed the river, gave way, creating a massive oil/gas spill, which exploded and burned for five days. The units provided critical support to the Marine Safety Office’s response and clean up operations associated with this disaster.

1997 April through September: Air Station Houston deploys a helicopter and crew on USCGC LEGARE (WMEC 912) homeport in Portsmouth, Virginia for the first operational deployment of a 270 foot Coast Guard Cutter to DOD sponsored BALTOPS/USEUCOM deployment. LEGARE and the Deployed helicopter cross the Atlantic and interact with the U. S. Navy and 21 other countries during naval exercises, as well as military and Coast Guard exchanges. Regions visited included: the Baltic Sea, the Mediterranean Sea, and the Black Sea with port calls/exchanges in England, Germany, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Russia, Poland, Denmark, Belgium, Spain, Morocco, Malta, Tunisia, Turkey, Georgia, Ukraine, Romania, Italy, and Ireland.

1999 October Air Station Houston achieves a new record for the number of SAR cases prosecuted in one 12-month period. During fiscal year 1999, the Air Station responded to 301 SAR cases.

2000 June-August Air Station Houston deploys an aircraft to Air Station Detroit to man an 'OPFAC' conducting search and rescue at Muskegon IL. Air Station Houston crewmembers were assigned during much of this time. This Deployment is indicative of the future of Air Station Houston. We will continue to be ready to provide the highest quality of Search and Rescue to the public.

2000 September Air Station Houston hosts the winner of the Yahoo! Fantasy career contest. Ms. Stephanie Kelly experienced first hand, what it is like to be a duty standing member of Air Station Houston. Ms. Kelly has since joined the Coast Guard and is currently in Officer Candidate School.

2001 June Air Station Houston plays a major role in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Allison. With over 80 hoists throughout the 24-hour period, the Air Station was a major factor in the lives of many Houstonians. The flooding occurred four days after the initial storm. Four days prior, during the throws of the storm, an Air Station Houston helicopter flew into the storm through 65+ knot winds to perform a medevac.

2008 September, Hurricane Ike ravaged Eastern Texas. Prior to Ike making landfall, a massive storm surge flooded Bolivar Peninsula trapping 200+residents. Coast Guard Air Station Houston dispatched all three helicopters, two of which had already been prepositioned to Corpus Christi, to respond. In all,
59 lives were saved by Air Station flight crews before the winds became too severe to continue. In the weeks following the storm, Air Station Houston provided more than 115 flight-hours in support of post-storm recovery operations and media/VIP over-flights.

2009 September, the Air Station becomes Airborne Use of Force (AUF) compliant and has the capabilities to stop maritime threats through use of M-14T EMR selective fire rifle and M240B machine gun.


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