JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska –
In the United States, there are five with naval militias: Alaska, California, New York, Ohio and South Carolina. First written into law in 1970, the Alaska Naval Militia remained there until dissolved in 1974. When reestablished in 1984, state officials pointed out the thousands of miles of Alaskan coast and the “variety of specialties that can be tapped in a crisis” with an active naval militia. Decades later the naval militia augments the Alaska Organized Militia when called to volunteer for state emergencies.
By regulation, the naval militia can consist of both U.S. Navy Sailors and Marines, however, currently the roster includes only Sailors. According to the former commander, retired Cmdr. Jason Woodward, the militia is a relatively small but valued and respected operation in the AKOM.
“All of us in the naval militia feel the intrinsic need to serve that comes from joining the Navy in the first place,” Woodward said. “Up here we aren’t close to any fleet so the naval militia gives an opportunity to feel our identity as Navy Sailors.”
The Alaska Naval Militia is one element within the AKOM and Sailors will often work alongside service members in the Alaska National Guard and the Alaska State Defense Force. For its part, the naval militia provides a volunteer force with military experience and training to serve their communities in Alaska.
Each member of the naval militia maintains mission readiness and drills one weekend a month at the Navy Reserve Center here. In the NRC, Sailors fulfill the administrative, physical and medical requirements to mobilize or deploy for the U.S. Navy.
“We’re organized, have a command structure, know what it takes to meet mission demands and that makes us an asset to the state,” said Woodward.
Chief Quartermaster Michael Dixon is the senior enlisted leader for the naval militia and a member since 2014. It was his experience serving during the COVID 19 response in 2020 that solidified for him the contribution a Navy Sailor can make for the state of Alaska.
“Our mission is to provide knowledge, skills and expertise of someone serving in the U.S. military,” said Dixon. “I’ve been in Alaska since 2012, I’m Alaskan and I want to serve my home and community when they need it.”
More recently, the Alaska Naval Militia responded to the landslide in Seward blocking off the community of Lowell Point. Intelligence Specialist Seaman Katrina Clayton was the naval militia Sailor that volunteered for traffic control duties while the road was closed for debris-removal operations.
“It was a great learning experience for me,” said Clayton, a native of Wasilla, Alaska. “I joined last August and I wanted to do more for the Navy and state I’ve called home my entire life.”
As the naval militia continues to answer calls from the state and more Sailors join, changes can be expected to improve the organization’s effectiveness in the AKOM. One already in process is the opening of membership to retired and Individual Ready Reserve Sailors. This will help ensure continuity of leadership and keep experienced and skilled Sailors in service to the state, Woodward explained.
“We have so much to offer as Navy Sailors and the drive to volunteer,” said Woodward. “Whether we’re in a fleet or not, we want to serve.”