ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- “In a domestic operation, it won’t strictly be a military-lead event,” said Brig. Gen. Wayne Don, director of the Joint Staff of the Alaska National Guard. “So it’s important that we have interoperability amongst agencies, organizations and uniformed personnel to respond effectively.”
Over 1600 Soldiers, Airmen, federal, state, contracted and civilian personnel, and multinational partners from neighboring countries will travel and conduct training in Nome, Anchorage and Kodiak, Alaska. These training scenarios will allow participants to test and validate their fieldcraft skills, gear capabilities, remote communications and transportation capabilities in environments that may be uncommon to them.
Before beginning the exercise, participants are given a course in cold-weather training to illustrate the importance of preparation before going into these Arctic and sub-Arctic regions of the state. Personnel participating in AEP22 come from all over the country and aren’t always aware of the conditions when living in Arctic and Sub-Arctic environments. The diversity of participants is a critical part of this training. Having and training with the correct equipment in preparation for an actual future event is key to how that environment, particularly Alaska, will recover and how personnel will play a part in that recovery.
The National Guard is trained, equipped and prepared for domestic operations and short-notice homeland security and emergency response. An exercise like AEP22 provides Soldiers who may typically train in warmer climates an opportunity to diversify their skills work with federal, state, contracted and civilian personnel they may not normally interact with.
“We are a global force… we have to be prepared to deploy anywhere,” said Amy Schwalber, Alaska National Guard J7 and Senior Exercise Specialist. “The mountains of Afghanistan have proved this too. Many people over the years have realized that these environments that they are sent to are vastly different from what they expected or are used to.”
The Department of Defense and the U.S. Army have created an Arctic Strategy to build Arctic capability specifically. This strategy lays out how the Army will generate, train, organize, and equip our forces to partner with Arctic allies, secure our national interests, and maintain regional stability. This calls for Arctic-capable units and Soldiers trained at the echelon, with the right equipment, and manned by Soldiers with the appropriate knowledge, skills, and abilities to operate in the Arctic successfully. The purpose of this focus is a diversified Soldier that successfully serves in other sub-Arctic, extremely cold weather and mountainous environments around the world.
“Alaska has long been considered who would be the lead focus for this kind of training,” said Brig. Gen. Don. “As the Alaska National Guard, not only because we are here, but because we have the most skill and experience in Arctic and sub-Arctic environments, the military has started to put a lot of effort into building their Arctic capability and strategy here.”