Back in 1974, we began operations for camp catering and security during the construction of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS), which brought a rapid influx of work opportunities to Alaska and the North Slope, specifically Prudhoe Bay – making it much like a Wild West boomtown, with little early regulation. Industrious men and women looking for adventure and high wages headed to the Last Frontier to join the excitement of building the longest land-based pipeline in the U.S. A few of those hardy souls still guide NMS, including Craig Clemens, vice president of HSSE, Security Officers Dave Cockrell, Tom Millar and Harvey Wing, and Dave Grinde, former vice president of the Camp Services division and current director of operations for the BP North Slope contract.
Of course, we weren’t called NMS in the early days. Our catering company started as NANA Commercial Catering, and the security company was called Purcell Services, named for the Purcell Mountains of the NANA region. The companies were separate entities until 1998, when they combined to form NMS. Our services on the North Slope have continued to expand through the years at the request of our clients, and we currently provide housekeeping, janitorial, maintenance, laundry, commissary and wastewater services, in addition to our original core services of camp catering and security.
The North Slope is like no other place on earth; it is wild, desolate and quiet with seemingly endless vistas of the tundra until it meets the sea. The North Slope region contains the National Petroleum Reserve–Alaska, Prudhoe Bay Oil Field – the largest oil field in North America discovered in 1968, as well as the Kuparuk River Oil Field, discovered in 1969 and the second largest oil field in North America. The region also includes the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which has been the subject of great controversy surrounding the possibility of petroleum drilling within its boundaries. The petroleum extracted from the region is transferred south by TAPS to the port of Valdez in the Prince William Sound.
Deadhorse and Prudhoe Bay sit on the coast of the Arctic Ocean at the heart of Alaska’s oil patch, where nearly 1,000 NMS employees live and work while providing services to our clients. NMS employees are also assigned to Endicott, Milne Point, Alpine and Pt. Thomson, depending on the service they provide and the client they are serving. Most NMS employees assigned to the North Slope work on rotating schedules every two to three weeks. Working 12-hour days, work teams become like family. They depend on each other and look to one another for support while they are away from home.
Matt Daggett, president of NMS, credits our North Slope employees for their outstanding commitment to safety and service excellence, which he believes separates us from the competition. “NMS values the long-term relationships we have with our North Slope clients,” he said. “I am convinced that we distinguish ourselves every day as the premier provider of quality-of-life and security services on the North Slope through our highly talented Camps and Security teams.”
Our remote teams are innovators, constantly looking for new ways to improve services, save our clients money and find safer ways of doing business. “It’s an exceptional group of people,” said Jason Carlson, vice president of Camp Services. “They are dedicated to the clients we serve and committed to making what we do better every day. NMS employees work hard to make it a home away from home for all of the people working on the Slope.”
Bill Tandeske, vice president of Security, reinforced the dedication of our North Slope employees: “Our Security team is experienced and focused. In isolated and remote working conditions, in some of the most extreme weather imaginable, our Security team does a terrific job of keeping North Slope workers safe and secure from the elements and unexpected events. I’m proud of their efforts and the work we do.”
Although NMS work teams fly to and from their homes to work their alternating shifts, the North Slope can be reached by the northernmost road of the U.S. road system.* For the truly adventurous, the 414-mile Dalton Highway, or the Haul Road, as it’s known to Alaskans, is unique in its scenic beauty, wildlife and recreational opportunities. The highway begins just north of Fairbanks in the Interior and ends at Deadhorse near Prudhoe Bay. It is Alaska’s most remote and challenging road, with little in the way of highway services. The road is mostly gravel, and motorists endure ruts, rocks and dust in dry weather, potholes in wet weather and trucks and road maintenance equipment at all times. However, if you choose to drive it, you will be rewarded for your troubles by several extraordinary sights and experiences along the way, including crossing the Yukon River and Arctic Circle, and seeing the ruggedly beautiful Atigun Pass in the Brooks Range.
Whether you are heading to Alaska to live and work or checking it off your travel bucket list, the North Slope is a true American adventure. A place for those of us who want to experience the wild and remote region of our ancestors, the North Slope conveys a silence, beauty and refuge like no other.
*Access to Prudhoe Bay and the Arctic Ocean is restricted to oilfield workers and tour groups with special permits. For security and safety reasons, unescorted visitors are not allowed on the docks or on area roads. A number of tour agencies out of Fairbanks, Anchorage and Deadhorse offer excursions to the Arctic Ocean as well as tours of the Prudhoe Bay oil facility.