An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

NEWS | April 17, 2020

Proactive Posture and Partnership The formation of Joint Task Force-Alaska and its preparation to help tackle COVID-19

By Sgt. Seth LaCount Alaska National Guard Public Affairs

President James Buchanan told 19th century Americans that “the test of leadership is not to put greatness into humanity, but to elicit it, for the greatness is already there.”

More than a month has passed since President Donald Trump issued a national emergency declaration for the COVID-19 pandemic. Though Alaska remains a state with one of the lowest contraction rates and death tolls in the nation, Alaska National Guard leadership has built on their preemptive measures to mitigate the potential harm done by the virus, acting in the spirit of Buchanan’s vision of how leadership is exemplified.

In early March, the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, under the authority of Gov. Mike Dunleavy, activated the State Emergency Operations Center to establish a network of available resources for partner agencies and Alaska communities.

The governor then initiated a unified command structure between the Department of Health and Social Services, Department of Public Safety and DMVA to ensure a swift, effective COVID-19 response and to augment potentially overwhelmed communities.

JTF-AK stood up to provide a coordinated effort for Alaska Organized Militia (AKOM) to support the state. AKOM includes the Army and Air National Guard, the Alaska State Defense Force and the Alaska Naval Militia. It would soon highlight what competent leaders are capable of inspiring.

“I can’t help but be aware of the fact that we stand, once again, on the stage of history,” said Alaska Army National Guard Capt. James Tollefson, an operations plans officer with the JTF-AK. “The COVID crisis will subside eventually and be followed by landmark reforms and legislation, just like [Hurricane] Katrina, the Enron collapse, the Great Recession, and 9/11 were. Each of us engaged in this response will have played a small but essential part of that historical drama.”

In state emergencies like this pandemic, the National Guard is called upon as a last resort to fulfill missions when other state, private and non-profit resources are unavailable or unable to meet requests

directly related to an emergency or disaster. Mission assignments are validated, prioritized and requested by the SEOC.

The organized militia has the equipment, facilities, personnel, training and experience to meet logistical, transportation and safety requirements for the state upon request.

“The Guard is unique in that it has this state role and the ability to respond on behalf of our fellow Alaskans in their darkest hour,” Tollefson said. “It motivates me to know that while people are 'hunkering down,’ we’re actively preparing to go forth and take care of our communities.”

Due to the unprecedented response requirements of the pandemic, JTF-AK worked to perfect the response force’s battle rhythm to ensure maximum efficiency. A battle rhythm is the deliberate daily cycle of command, staff and unit activities intended to synchronize current and future operations.

“We’ve engaged in a lot of crucial relationship building with our brothers and sisters in the organized militia,” Tollefson said. “It will make a huge difference if this response ramps up, and we’ve done a lot of internal process refinement to ensure that we’re ready to go when the time comes.”

Thus far, the AKNG and the rest of the organized militia under the leadership of JTF-AK have met the challenges set before them, Tollefson said. While the future of the COVID-19 pandemic is uncertain, Alaskans everywhere can rest assured that members of the National Guard, ASDF and Naval Militia who live and work in local communities throughout Alaska will be there to protect their neighbors in their time of need

“Our people are ready,” he said. “They’re volunteering at the Bean’s Café kitchen, screening passengers at airports, and helping with logistics in the Department of Health and Social Services warehouse.

“Quietly, inexhaustibly, behind-the-scenes we are there, working and planning to keep Alaskans safe,” the captain continued. “And if the need arises, there will be many hundreds more who follow where these first few have led the way.”
Alaska National Guard kicks off initial phase of Kodiak Arctic Care ‘24
May 9, 2024
Members of the U.S. Public Health Service offload from an Alaska Air National Guard C-17 Globemaster III assigned to the 144th Airlift Squadron, 176th Wing, during Kodiak Arctic Care 24 Innovative Readiness Training Mission at Kodiak, Alaska, May 6, 2024.

Alaska Air Guard’s 168th Wing Refuels Red Flag Exercise
May 8, 2024
A U.S. F-16 Fighting Falcon approaches the boom of a 168th Wing KC-135 Stratotanker during Red Flag Alaska 24-1 aerial refueling operations over Alaska April 24, 2024. The 168th Wing provided air refueling during the exercise.

Exercise Gobi Wolf 2024 Begins in Heart of Mongolian Steppe
May 8, 2024
Brig. Gen. B. Uuganbayar, left, deputy director of the Mongolian National Emergency Management Agency, presents a commemorative anniversary plaque to Australian Maj. Gen. Scott Winter, deputy commanding general - strategy and plans for the U.S. Army Pacific, during the Gobi Wolf 2024 opening ceremony at the Governor’s Palace in Choibalsan, Mongolia, May 7, 2024. Gobi Wolf is an annual joint exercise coordinated by the Mongolian National Emergency Management Agency and U.S. Army Pacific that focuses on interagency coordination within Mongolia, as well as foreign humanitarian assistance during a large-scale natural disaster.

Alaska State Defense Force volunteerism shines at Mat-Su Arctic Winter Games
April 24, 2024
na

First annual AKNG Earth Day inspires youth, brings awareness to military’s role in conservation
April 24, 2024
N/A

U.S. Army and Marine Corps forge joint efforts to enhance aviation tactics
April 23, 2024
An Alaska Army National Guard UH-60L Black Hawk helicopter assigned to the 207th Aviation Troop Command performs a defensive maneuver while evading a simulated aerial threat during the Weapons and Tactics Instructor Course 2-24 near Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., March 28, 2024.

Alaska Air National Guard officer shares story with Service High JROTC
April 22, 2024
Alaska Air National Guard officer shares story with Service High JROTC

Alaska Air National Guard rescues stranded skiers at Kenai Fjords National Park
April 22, 2024
Stranded Skiers Rescued from Kenai Fjords National Park via Helicopter

Expanding horizons: Kusilvak Career Academy students tour Air National Guard facilities
April 9, 2024
na

A selfless effort: Alaska National Guard teen wins NG Youth Volunteer of the Year award during visit to state legislature
April 9, 2024
na