NEWS | Jan. 3, 2022

Alaska National Guard assists with winter storm emergency evacuations

By Candis Olmstead Joint Force Headquarters Public Affairs

The Alaska National Guard is providing emergency response assistance to the Fairbanks North Star Borough starting today after extreme snow and ice conditions in Interior Alaska have caused power outages and stranded some local residents.
 
Air National Guard and Army National Guard personnel who live in the borough volunteered for Operation Winter Storms to assist their local community with emergency transportation needs. Ten personnel and several vehicles are staged at the Fairbanks National Guard Armory, on standby to assist local authorities with ground evacuation operations for citizens isolated by extreme cold weather conditions, along roads that are impassable by commercial or private means.
 
The National Guard’s efforts are in response to a resource request from the Alaska State Emergency Operations Center, which was prompted by a request for support from the FNSB Emergency Operations Center, in need of additional support to evacuate borough citizens stranded in their homes. There is additional concern that conditions could worsen over the weekend, as the National Weather Service issued a winter weather advisory through Saturday.
 
The SEOC is managed by the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, which falls within the Alaska Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. Maj. Gen. Torrence Saxe, adjutant general of the Alaska National Guard and commissioner for DMVA, has been in communications with Gov. Mike Dunleavy and FNSB Mayor Bryce Ward to collaboratively ensure that the state is providing necessary support to the region.
 
“The SEOC has been monitoring multiple weather-related incidents statewide this week,” said Saxe. “For many communities throughout the Interior, reports indicate widespread power outages and significant disruptions for both road and air travel, and we are working with state and local agencies to assist as needed.”
 
Saxe said that the SEOC remains in contact with the State Department of Transportation and Public Facilities and officials from affected communities to monitor and respond to the developing situation.
 
Joint Task Force-Winter Storms is assigned a four-wheel drive, six-passenger truck with optional chains and two small unit support vehicles (SUSV), the U.S. Army’s Arctic all-terrain vehicle; a tracked, two-pod transport with excellent mobility that can fit about 15 passengers.
 
Members of the JTF-WS team providing direct support to FNSB represent several units in the Alaska National Guard, including Airmen from the 168th Wing’s Security Forces Squadron, Force Support Squadron, and Maintenance Squadron; and Soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 297th Infantry Regiment and 297th Military Police Company.
 
When local authorities determine that an emergency or disaster has caused more impact or damage than the community is able to support independently, they may request assistance through the State Emergency Operations Center. State emergency managers assist local emergency managers in a coordinated effort to provide the necessary resources, effectively and within a codified process. It is through this process that it may be determined that the National Guard’s assistance is needed, and the state requests specific support through the Alaska National Guard Joint Operations Center and Joint Staff, who expedite and coordinate the effort.