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 | Jan. 31, 2023

National Guard leaders partake in multi-state Arctic event at Camp Ripley

By Balinda O’Neal Alaska National Guard Public Affairs

In the Arctic, steel becomes brittle at -22 degrees Fahrenheit, continuous connectivity at the bandwidth needed for modern military operations is lagging, and more than 80 percent of Alaska communities are not connected to the road system. These challenges were among the many topics discussed at the National Guard Arctic Interest Council’s quarterly meeting at Camp Ripley, Jan. 24-26, 2023.

The Minnesota National Guard hosted the event bringing together subject matter experts from the Coast Guard, Navy, Air and Army National Guard, Ted Stevens Center for Arctic Security Studies, academic professors and industry partners to discuss the advancement of Arctic and cold weather capabilities.

Army National Guard Brig. Gen. Wayne Don, director of the Alaska National Guard’s Joint Staff, said that rather than just survival, the forum focused on the service members’ need to be equipped to operate and successfully complete their mission in the Arctic.

“With all the changes that are going on around the world, to include climate change and the increasing activity in the Northwest Passage area, it has become very important for all of us to recognize that we have to have the right capabilities and gear to operate,” said Don, referencing one of the world’s most rapidly changing environments.

“The people that are going to advocate for that most ardently are going to be the people that live there and as members of the Arctic community, I think we are in the right position to advocate for those changes and upgrades within our capabilities,” said Don, an Alaska Native who grew up in Mekoryuk, a village on Nunivak Island, 500 miles west of Anchorage in the Bering Sea.
 
Don said that all of the council members’ experiences are different, and coming together is essential in providing input into broader strategies.

During the event, attendees had the opportunity to observe and visit with Airmen from the Minnesota Air National Guard’s 133rd Contingency Response Flight completing their cold-weather focused, annual training where the Guardsmen sheltered in tents, igloos and snow caves to simulate an Arctic mobilization.

“Two steps in the Arctic is one anywhere else,” said Senior Master Sgt. Jeremiah Wickenhauser, 133rd CRF superintendent, during his presentation to the council members on his unit’s capabilities and their current training on how to stay warm in freezing temperatures while performing different aspects of their jobs.

Wickenhauser referenced the 133rd’s ability to be the premier Arctic contingency response unit in the National Guard and that successes like these takes “innovation, experimentation and training.”

Wickenhauser said the forum was a helpful way for other states to learn about training opportunities and join exercises like the 133rd CRF hosted Arctic Butterfly – an exercise that trains arctic survival skills and supports flight-line operations in a cold-weather scenario.
 
From diving and explosive ordnance disposal in the Arctic to cold adaptation and winter equipment maintenance, council members learned from multiple SMEs who shared experiences from their career field.

Since its inception in 2017, the National Guard Arctic Interest Council has advocated for the advancement of arctic and cold weather capabilities as part of the U.S. defense strategy. Approximately 50 representatives from nine states participated in the event.

Don said that collaborating with neighbors and the opportunity to talk offline about challenges impacting the different National Guard states brought key issues into focus.

“It’s a good thing for us to get together and talk about some of the challenges, successes and strategies for moving forward,” said Don.

 
Alaska Naval Militia, U.S. Navy Reserve pay tribute to S-26 submariners
January 24, 2024
In a solemn gathering at the U.S. Navy Reserve Center on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, sailors from the Alaska Naval Militia and U.S. Navy Reserve assembled Jan. 24, to pay homage to their fallen comrades lost 82 years ago.

Aircraft maintenance Airmen critical part of Pave Hawk transport mission
January 11, 2024
Airmen from the Alaska Air National Guard 176th Aircraft Maintenance from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, and the active duty 718th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron from Kadena Air Base, Japan, conducted a joint operation to transport an HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter from Bethel to JBER in early January 2024.

Alaska National Guard's Operation Santa Claus spreads holiday cheer to remote communities
December 5, 2023
Alaska Air National Guard pilots 1st Lt. Skylar Caldwell, left, and Capt. Gerren Blair, and loadmaster, Tech Sgt. John Teamer II, enjoy time with Santa and Mrs. Claus while flying the festive couple to Bethel during Operation Santa Claus Nov. 15, 2023.

Alaska Military Youth Academy honored with Gold Pan Award
November 22, 2023
The Anchorage Chamber of Commerce hosted the 66th Annual Gold Pan Awards on Nov. 17, 2023, at the Dena'ina Center in Anchorage.

Alaska National Guard's Operation Santa Claus makes a lifesaving detour
November 16, 2023
From the left, Holly Demert and Clifton Dalton, both flight paramedics with LifeMed, and Chief Warrant Officer 3 Bryan Kruse, Bethel Army Aviation Operating Facility commander, move a critically ill patient from an AKARNG UH-60L Black Hawk helicopter to an ambulance during a medical evacuation from Napaskiak to Bethel, Nov. 15, 2023

Cadets soar in Civil Air Patrol search and rescue exercise
November 13, 2023
Civil Air Patrol Lt. Col. Stephen Sammons, left, Alaska Wing emergency services officer, instructs CAP cadets from the Southcentral Region where to find an Emergency Locator Transmitter onboard a Cessna 172 aircraft during a three-day training event Nov. 4, 2023, at the Birchwood Airport in Chugiak, Alaska.

A new set of cross pistols: AKARNG "Wolf Gang" Military Police Company deactivates, ushering in new detachment
November 3, 2023
Alaska Army National Guard Capt. Michael Thrall, left, outgoing commander, and 1st Sgt. Bethany Amarone, outgoing noncommissioned officer in charge, both assigned to the 297th Military Police Company, retire the colors of the unit’s flag as part of a deactivation ceremony for the company at the Alcantra Armory in Wasilla, Alaska, Nov. 2, 2023.

Alaska Army National Guard’s Bison Company set to deploy to Middle East
September 30, 2023
Alaska Army National Guard 1st Sgt. Oliver Meza, Bravo Company first sergeant, shows off his unit’s patch during a deployment ceremony where family members, friends, and fellow Guardsmen came together to pay tribute to Soldiers of B Co., 1st Battalion, 297th Infantry Regiment, at the Alaska National Guard Armory on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Sept. 29, 2023.

910th Engineer Support Company constructs their skills
August 21, 2023
Alaska Army National Guard Sgt. David Kocur, a horizontal construction engineer assigned to the 910th Engineer Support Company, operates a grader to create a broad flat foundation on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, Aug. 8, 2023.

176th Wing firefighters protect Nenana from wildfires
August 21, 2023
176th Wing firefighters protect Nenana from wildfires