By 1st Lt. Balinda O'Neal
, Alaska National Guard Public Affairs
Members of the Alaska Organized Militia returned home June 9, 2022, after assisting the city of Seward following the May 7 Bear Mountain landslide that blocked the road and access to and from the community of Lowell Point.
Joint Task Force – Seward helped the city with traffic control during Lowell Point Road temporary openings and assisted with barrier duties during blasting and debris removal operations. The team also provided parking assistance at the Seward harbor for community members taking a water taxi – the only means of transportation during road closure periods – to and from the Lowell Point community.
“The public was very understanding with what we asked of them during closures and restrictions to Lowell Point road and harborside parking areas,” said Pfc. Jeremy Mulcahy-Hill, with the Alaska State Defense Force’s C Company out of Kodiak. “The city of Seward was great in communicating what they needed from our team.”
The AKOM team – two ASDF and one Alaska Naval Militia member – took direction from the unified command representatives of the city of Seward, Kenai Peninsula Borough, and the state of Alaska’s Department of Transportation and State Emergency Operations Center.
“The Alaska Organized Militia did a great job and our community enjoyed their presence,” said Janette Bower, the city of Seward manager. “They have been very professional and level-headed.”
Bower explained that this was important after a June 2 tsunami evacuation was erroneously activated in the community.
“They were prepared to jump in and assist with the activation,” said Bower. “Thankfully, it was a false alarm but they were ready.”
The JTF was surprised by the alarm but activated quickly to evacuate individuals who were still on the waterfront.
“It was a good example of the multifaceted abilities that our team had to offer,” said Mulcahy-Hill complimenting his team’s constant flexibility. “They have been responsive to change with smiles on their faces.”
The Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, which falls under the Alaska Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, manages the SEOC. During a domestic emergency or natural disaster, local authorities may request assistance via the SEOC. Through this process the SEOC can request the Alaska Organized Militia for support.
“With team members hailing from Kodiak, Kenai and Wasilla, the Joint Task Force exemplified the idea of Alaskans helping Alaskans,” said Mulcahy-Hill, who has had the opportunity to work alongside AKOM volunteers from companies in Kodiak, Anchorage, and now Seward. “In each one of those instances there is a constant theme – serving the people of the state of Alaska.”
Lowell Point is a small community just outside of Seward approximately 120 miles from Anchorage. The Alaska National Guard also provided a public information officer for seven days to assist the unified command following the governor’s disaster declaration.
“It does not matter what part of the state you are from or what skillset you may have,” said Mulcahy-Hill, a full-time hazardous materials foreman and information technology manager for NWFF Environmental out of Kodiak. “Everyone in the organization has a desire to give back to their communities and the state as a whole.”