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 | Sept. 30, 2023

Alaska Army National Guard’s Bison Company set to deploy to Middle East

By Balinda O'Neal Alaska National Guard

Approximately 100 Alaska Army National Guardsmen assigned to Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 297th Infantry Regiment, are gearing up for a deployment to Kuwait in November as part of Operation Spartan Shield.
 
A heartfelt ceremony took place on Sept. 29 at the Alaska National Guard Armory on JBER, where family members, friends, and fellow Guardsmen came together to pay tribute to the Soldiers of “Bison” Company, as they are affectionally known, before their journey begins.

During the ceremony, Lt. Col. Luke Bushatz, 1-297th battalion commander, spoke to the Guardsmen about safeguarding the fundamental freedoms we cherish and how easily they can be taken from us by weak citizenry.

“You guard liberty because you choose to be a part of something that is bigger than the individual,” said Bushatz. “You willingly choose to submit yourselves to one another, holding yourself accountable for the preservation of rights of men given by God.” 

In support of U.S. Central Command, Bison Company’s mission will continue to build partner capacity and increase regional security.

“We will be doing a security forces mission for [High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems],” said Capt. Richard Collins, the Bison Company commander, referencing the rocket systems used and training between the U.S. and Kuwaiti forces that helps maintain a high level of combat readiness and effective communication between the two forces.

The 1-297th is part of a geographically dispersed brigade that is headquartered in the Hawaii ARNG. The HAARNG’s 29th Infantry Brigade Combat Team has four battalions stationed in Hawaii, along with a battalion in Alaska, Guam and Arizona, respectively.

“I’m extremely excited for the Soldiers, including myself,” said Collins. “We’ve trained for over 100 days. The typical National Guardsmen only trains for about 39 days within their calendar year.”
 
In preparation for their upcoming deployment, the 1-297th joined the 29th IBCT at the Joint Readiness Training Center in Fort Polk, La., this summer for a month-long rotation where they participated in a large-scale combat operations training event.

“Over the past year I have seen you persevere through difficult conditions and grow into an effective and cohesive team,” said Bushatz, emphasizing the extreme temperature change from negative 60 in the Arctic to 120 degrees Fahrenheit in the West South-Central region that the unit trained in down in the lower 48. “You’ve sweat, you’ve bled, you’ve struggled, and you persevered to prepare yourself for this day.”

For many of the Guardsmen in the formation, this was not their first deployment ceremony. In 2020, more than 150 Guardsmen from the 1-297th returned from a year-long deployment to Kosovo. There they were assigned to monitor the country’s administrative border lines and ports of entry to provide freedom of movement and a safe environment for the country’s people.

“I look forward to working alongside of each of you and watching y’all achieve your personal and professional goals over the next nine months,” said Collins ending his speech with Bison Company’s motto “Into the Storm” – celebrating the fearless attitude of the animal and the spirit of facing the storm head-on.

“I do not know exactly what the future holds for you but after years training to prepare yourselves for this great adventure I am confident that you will exceed in every mission that is placed before this unit,” said Bushatz.

The unit will leave Alaska next week for Fort Bliss, Texas, where they will finalize their overseas deployment training.
Bethel Readiness Center dedicated to local veteran, distinguished leader in community
March 19, 2024
Bethel Readiness Center dedicated to local veteran, distinguished leader in community

Alaska, Maine Guard Conduct Disaster Preparation Exercise
March 13, 2024
Alaska and Maine National Guardsmen offload from a 176th Wing C-17 Globemaster III while supporting Exercise Vigilant Guard 2024-2 (Alaska) at Merle K. “Mudhole” Smith Airport, Cordova, Alaska, March 5, 2024.

Alaska Air National Guardsman volunteers as JROTC drill judge
February 22, 2024
Alaska Air National Guardsman volunteers as JROTC drill judge

Bison Company’s cold weather training triumphs in Bethel
February 7, 2024
Bison Company, 1st Battalion, 297th Infantry Regiment, demonstrated readiness and resilience during their cold weather training in Bethel, Alaska, February 2-4, 2024.
This training marked a significant reunion for the Alaska Army National Guard infantry unit in Bethel, emphasizing the city's importance as a training ground that challenges Soldiers to adapt and excel in real-world scenarios.

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.