Shielding the Arctic

Rear Adm. Thomas Ostebo takes command in the north

A harsh environment, limited infrastructure and logistics are only a few of the unique challenges faced by Rear Admiral Tom Ostebo (MSIA '93) since taking command last year of the 17th Coast Guard District.

A member of Krannert’s Global Strategic Advisory Council, Ostebo is responsible for all Coast Guard operations throughout Alaska, which includes protecting life and property, enforcing federal laws and treaties, preserving the living marine resources and promoting national security.

Headquartered in Juneau, the 17th District includes portions of the North Pacific Ocean, Arctic Ocean, and Bering Sea. As the commander of U.S. Naval Forces Alaska, Ostebo provides operationally ready maritime forces to both Coast Guard and Department of Defense Commanders for Coast Guard, joint and interagency operations both domestically and internationally.

Among his current responsibilities is Arctic Shield 2012, which fulfills the Coast Guard’s statutory missions to ensure the Arctic remains a safe, secure and environmentally sustainable region.

In February, Coast Guard and other federal, state and local personnel began conducting more than 50 humanitarian outreach events in 27 different communities. It is the nation’s largest humanitarian outreach effort that is not in response to a disaster (natural or man-made) in recent history.

Tom Ostebo

Rear Adm. Thomas Ostebo, commander District 17, explains Coast Guard operations in the Arctic and the distances covered by Coast Guard assets throughout Alaska to Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano during a tour of Base Kodiak, Alaska, in August. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Jonathan Klingenberg)

“Conducting operations in Alaska is like planning and overseeing operations from Georgia and staging equipment in Texas to conduct operations in North Dakota,” Ostebo says. “Moving people and equipment from Kodiak to Barrow is approximately equal to moving from north Texas to the North Dakota, Minnesota, Canada border.”

Additional operations began in July with the deployment of multiple cutters, aircraft and personnel in the region. “Our goal is to develop an active and scalable approach to meet our maritime safety, security and stewardship requirements,” he says.

Ostebo is one of numerous “Coasties” to graduate from Krannert’s 11-month Master of Science in Industrial Administration (MSIA) program and Purdue's emphasis in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) disciplines made it a perfect fit for him.

In addition to the international component of Purdue's program, he was impressed by its approach to problem solving. "For me, it was the perfect mix of analytical and business tools. That education played a huge role in developing my ability to multitask and to be reasoned and persuasive in my thinking," he says.

He calls a class taught by Krannert professor Jerry Lynch one of his highlights at Purdue. "It was the first economics course I had taken, and it turned on a lot of light bulbs in terms of how decisions are made," Ostebo says.