JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Exercise Arctic Eagle 2020, a two-week biennial exercise organized by the Alaska National Guard, came to an end Mar. 7. The exercise included about 1,250 participants from multiple local and federal civilian agencies as well as foreign and domestic military components, including approximately 900 Air and Army Guardsmen from 15 states, and it took place at multiple venues at locations around the state of Alaska starting Feb. 20.
The locations included Fort Wainwright, Fairbanks, Deadhorse, Bethel, Wasilla and Camp Seadragon.
“Alaska is one fifth the size of the U.S., it’s the only arctic state, and most of the state is off of the road system,” said Maj. Gen. Torrence Saxe, the adjutant general of the Alaska National Guard, “So it’s important to ensure our training opportunities take place at a wide variety of locations that offer unique weather and terrain-related challenges.”
The overall mission of Arctic Eagle is to train and test equipment in arctic environments while demonstrating interoperability with other agencies in a hypothetical emergency response scenario. National Guard states, in partnership with other nations, active duty forces, local, state and federal agencies, are prepared to support the global challenges of Arctic operations and security.
Fort Wainwright hosted two of the venues. Here, a chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear enterprise search and extraction took place progressing through four phases: search and extraction, dry decontamination, medical triage and casualty transportation to local hospitals. Civilian and military participants from Alaska, Colorado, Indiana, Maryland, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Utah, Washington, and Wisconsin were involved in the training, including the Federal Emergency Management Agency and their K9 unit, and the United States Marine Corps Chemical Biological Incident Response Force.
At the Yukon Training Area on Fort Wainwright, a separate cold-weather exercise took place involving the Alaska National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 297th Infantry Regiment in which various survival, arctic light infantry and weapons training was conducted to test and validate field skills and gear in extreme cold weather conditions. This portion was supported by New Hampshire National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters.
In Fairbanks, multiple civil support teams from Alaska, Arizona, Connecticut, New Hampshire and Washington participated in a CBRN response enterprise civil support team exercise at the North Star Fire Department, the Tanana Valley State Fair Grounds and the University of Alaska Fairbanks campus. The Federal Bureau of Investigation and other federal and local agencies participated in the exercise as well.
At Harrison Bay and Deadhorse, cargo and equipment were transported by CC-138 Twin Otter planes. The New York National Guard also conducted day and night landings in LC-130 Skibirds, which is a ski-equipped variant of the C-130 Hercules.
In Bethel, multiple National Guard units conducted a domestic operations mission to support the people of Bethel by running radiological tests and critical site surveys, practicing cold weather survival skills, and testing long-range communications with the Alaska State Defense Force Headquarters at Alcantra Armory in Wasilla.
“We have ASDF personnel out in most of the villages that we went to,” said Amy Schwalber, AE20 lead exercise planner, “So we have members who actually live and work in that area, and they were able to engage the leadership within the community to turn it into a positive outreach.”
The ASDF at Alcantra also conducted domain awareness and critical site security with the 5th Battalion, 19th Special Operations Group (Airborne) and U.S. Border Patrol, tactical personnel who were working out of the Bethel armory.
At Camp Seadragon, near Deadhorse, personnel and aircraft of the Alaska National Guard established a landing zone for the Naval Arctic Research Laboratory to conduct research off the north coast of Alaska. The Guardsmen conducted Arctic Sustainment Package airdrops from an HC-130 Combat King II and a C-17 Globemaster III which also provided an addition of rescue resupply airdrops.
AE20 provides training opportunities for National Guard forces, in collaboration with state and federal partners, to exercise and develop a level of interagency interoperability to ensure an efficient response to a catastrophic event, alleviating impacts to the citizens of Alaska and setting conditions for recovery operations.
“By training other states that aren’t Alaska, it allows them to get experience in the extreme cold,” said Schwalber. “So, should we need assistance here in Alaska, we have individuals who are trained and equipped for the conditions.”
The Alaska National Guard is prepared and trained for domestic operations, crisis response, homeland security, and homeland defense.