JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska – Arctic Eagle 2020, a biennial cold-weather exercise organized by the Alaska National Guard, ended March 7.
The two-week exercise across Alaska included about 1,250 participants from local and federal civilian agencies and foreign and domestic military components, including 900 Air and Army National Guard members from 15 states. Venues included Fort Wainwright, Fairbanks, Deadhorse, Bethel, Wasilla and Camp Seadragon.
“Alaska is one-fifth the size of the U.S., it’s the only arctic state, and most of the state is off of the road system,” said Maj. Gen. Torrence Saxe, adjutant general of the Alaska National Guard. “So it’s important to ensure our training opportunities take place at a wide variety of locations that offer unique weather and terrain-related challenges.”
The overall mission of Arctic Eagle is to train and test equipment in arctic environments while demonstrating interoperability with other agencies in an emergency response scenario. National Guard states, in partnership with other nations, active-duty forces, local, state and federal agencies, are prepared to support the global challenges of Arctic operations and security.
Fort Wainwright hosted two of the venues. A chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear enterprise search and extraction took place with dry decontamination, medical triage and transportation of simulated casualties to hospitals. Civilian and military participants from Alaska, Colorado, Indiana, Maryland, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Utah, Washington and Wisconsin were involved, including the Federal Emergency Management Agency and its K9 unit, and the United States Marine Corps Chemical Biological Incident Response Force.
At the Yukon Training Area, the Alaska National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 297th Infantry Regiment, tested field skills and gear in extreme cold with New Hampshire National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters.
In Fairbanks, multiple civil support teams from Alaska, Arizona, Connecticut, New Hampshire and Washington participated in a CBRN response exercise at the North Star Fire Department, the Tanana Valley State Fair Grounds and the University of Alaska Fairbanks campus. The Federal Bureau of Investigation and other federal and local agencies were also involved.
At Harrison Bay and Deadhorse, cargo and equipment were transported by CC-138 Twin Otter planes. The New York National Guard also conducted day and night landings in LC-130 Skibirds, a ski-equipped variant of the C-130 Hercules.
In Bethel, multiple National Guard units conducted a domestic operations mission by running radiological tests and critical site surveys, practicing cold weather survival, and testing long-range communications with the Alaska State Defense Force Headquarters (ASDF) in Wasilla.
“We have ASDF personnel out in most of the villages that we went to,” said Amy Schwalber, AE20 lead exercise planner, “So we have members who actually live and work in that area, and they were able to engage the leadership within the community to turn it into a positive outreach.”
The ASDF at Alcantra also conducted domain awareness and critical site security with the 5th Battalion, 19th Special Operations Group (Airborne) and U.S. Border Patrol.
At Camp Seadragon near Deadhorse, the Alaska National Guard established a landing zone for the Naval Arctic Research Laboratory to conduct research off the north coast of Alaska. The Guard members conducted airdrops from an HC-130 Combat King II and a C-17 Globemaster III.
Arctic Eagle 2020 provides training opportunities for National Guard forces, in collaboration with state and federal partners, to exercise and develop interagency interoperability to ensure efficient response to a catastrophic event.
“By training other states that aren’t Alaska, it allows them to get experience in the extreme cold,” said Schwalber. “So, should we need assistance here in Alaska, we have individuals who are trained and equipped for the conditions.”