JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- From earthquakes, avalanches and blizzards to months of extended darkness, life in the Arctic presents unique challenges, leaving some service members questioning why Alaska is so important to the Department of Defense.
Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson’s Arctic Defense and Security Orientation (ADSO) course aims to shed light on the big-picture purpose for defense of the Arctic with a foundational, educational experience.
During a recent visit to JBER, U.S. Air Force Gen. Ken Wilsbach, Pacific Air Forces commander, and U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. David Wolfe, PACAF command chief, experienced the course first-hand.
“Being able to understand why our forces are here in Alaska, what we’re trying to accomplish and how we go about doing that are important aspects of the course. The course is designed to improve everyone’s expertise on the Arctic and what it has to offer,” said Wilsbach. “After completing the course, you can articulate why Alaska and the Arctic are so vitally important to our national security.”
ADSO builds Arctic awareness, enhances Arctic operations and strengthens the rules-based order in the Arctic. Students learn about military posturing in the region and its economic and political climates.
The National Defense Strategy affirms defense of the homeland as the first priority for the DoD. The department must be prepared to defend U.S. sovereignty in the Arctic. The region is a strategic terrain because it constitutes the northern approaches to the United States, and the DoD must defend the homeland against threats emanating from these approaches.
The Arctic is a potential corridor – between the Indo-Pacific and Europe, and the U.S. homeland – for expanded strategic competitions. Strategic competitors may undertake malign or coercive activities in the Arctic in order to advance their goals for these regions. A strong military presence in Alaska protects U.S. national security interests by taking appropriate actions in the Arctic as part of maintaining favorable balances of power in the Indo-Pacific and Europe.
The Arctic is a shared region comprising the territories of the eight circumpolar nations and including the Arctic Ocean. The DoD, in partnership with other federal departments and agencies and Arctic allies, ensures continued access to the Arctic for legitimate civilian, commercial and military purposes.
“The ADSO course really gives people an understanding of what I think is the first responsibility we have as leaders - to articulate why what we’re doing is vital to our nation and allies,” Wolfe said. “If folks don’t understand why we’re here, we answer those questions with ADSO. It provides a deeper understanding of why you are an Arctic-assigned Airman.”
The majority of Airmen arriving at JBER after Jan. 1, 2020 attend the three-day course which covers Arctic history, Alaska Native history, threats from adversaries and provides an extensive big picture overview.
Experts from the University of Alaska help shape the conversation of the Alaska Native piece, which highlights how important the relationship is with the Alaska Natives to operations in the region.
Upon completion of the ADSO course members receive the Artic Special Experience Indicator (SEI) in their records and are permitted to wear the Arctic uniform tab.
For more information or to enroll in ADSO, contact your unit’s commander support staff.