NEWS | Dec. 23, 2019

Guard visits rural Alaska communities to strengthen ties

By Lt. Col. Candis Olmstead Alaska National Guard

JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska – Members of the Alaska Department of Military and Veterans Affairs visited Nome Dec. 17-18 as part of the new rural operations hub concept to strengthen ties with Alaska’s rural communities.

Maj. Gen. Torrence Saxe, Alaska National Guard commander and adjutant general and commissioner of the DMVA, took representatives from the state Office of Veterans Affairs, Air and Army Guard recruiters, members of the joint staff, the Alaska Military Youth Academy, Counterdrug Support Program and the Alaska State Defense Force.

During the Nome trip, the sixth site visit in support of the hub concept, the group met with Nome Mayor Richard Beneville and other city leaders, tribal council and Native corporation members, and key personnel from Nome schools, the port, harbor and hospital. Plans to grow rural operations in Alaska have also included stops in Bethel, Kwethluk, Napaskiak, Galena and Kodiak. The next visits will be in Utqiagvik and Kotzebue.

“We want to get back to having strong relationships in the community, have more folks from this area who are serving in the Guard, and prepositioned to respond to emergencies and natural disasters when called upon to assist,” said Saxe. “And in order to help the community respond as quickly as possible, we need Guardsmen already in place.”

Saxe said the Guard wants to ensure readiness and capability in Nome and build on relationships to better understand unique needs for emergency management and response.

“The one thing I don’t want to do is introduce ourselves for the first time in a crisis, so that’s in part why we are here,” he said.

In the meeting with Beneville, Saxe said DMVA personnel would visit Nome regularly, with a desire to grow the National Guard in the area.

“We’re looking to hire local, and to have folks work local, here in Nome,” said Saxe.

“We have a recruiter, we have the positions, we have an armory and aviation facility, a historical presence, and a desire to provide jobs and training here,” said Saxe. “This is where I truly need the help of the community, if you know someone who wants to join the Guard or is even just thinking about it, please let me know and let our recruiters know.”

The mayor and others said they would welcome a stronger military presence in the community.

The Army National Guard has had a full-time recruiter in Nome since May. Staff Sgt. Christopher Thomas just finished teaching a leadership and citizenship class at Nome-Beltz Jr/Sr High School. “Guard Your Future” is a civics-based curriculum offered by the Army National Guard that teaches life skills and volunteerism. Next semester, he will be available as a substitute teacher, continuing to provide a military perspective and helping develop students to understand more about discipline, character and service.