Home : Media : News : News Article View
NEWS | April 29, 2022

Alaska State Defense Force: A tradition of homeland protection

By Victoria Granado Alaska National Guard Public Affairs

JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- In northern Wasilla up a dirt road, dusty in the summer and slick with ice in the winter, there are two buildings belonging to the state of Alaska. In the smaller building, a uniformed group sits around a conference table with their laptops and notepads open, standing by for a meeting.

It’s a sunny but chilly Sunday in April, and the group is participating in their monthly drill as volunteers in the Alaska State Defense Force (ASDF). The men and women wear the Army Combat Uniform, a few in the older digital camouflage, but each one with a patch on their right shoulder – the Big Dipper on a dark blue field – indicating the state they call home.

The ASDF is the modern successor to the Alaska Territorial Guard ( ATG) which was established as the first line of the territory’s defense in 1942, during World War II. During the war, the ATG served as scouts – the military’s eyes and ears against Japanese invasion. Straight from local communities, the ATG was already seasoned to Alaska’s arctic conditions. For years afterwards, the ATG enlisted thousands of Alaskans, some as young as 12 and often recruited by one of the founders: Maj. Marvin “Muktuk” Marston.

The Mission – Prepare, Plan and Respond
In the 21st century, the ASDF mission has grown and adapted from its World War II scouting operations to be an effective component in the Alaska Organized Militia. The ASDF now characterizes its mission as an organized state military reserve force training “to prepare, plan, respond, mitigate and recover from natural and man-made disasters.”

Over the years, service members in the ASDF have volunteered in missions such as wildland fire response, infrastructure damage and safety assessment and COVID-19 exposure tracking. Whether it is directing traffic or transporting cots and blankets to shelters, the ASDF trains for events that involve a range of risks and demands.

That training can include multiagency exercises with the Alaska National Guard. Most recently members of the ASDF participated in Arctic Eagle-Patriot (APE) 2022, a cold weather training scenario involving National Guard units from 15 other states and emergency response civilian agencies.

Pvt. (AK) Stanley Radeski, an ASDF volunteer in AEP22, described how valuable the training opportunities are to the organization.

“If anything significant happens, Alaska needs to rely on Alaskans first,” said Radeski. “Alaskans are going to be the first responders. Despite the size of the state, the population is not that large, and we need to have group of people who are capable and willing to assist.”

During AEP22, ASDF service members conducted domain awareness patrols with mission partners, familiarizing themselves with the terrain and scouting for potential points of weakness in infrastructure. According to Radeski, this is knowledge he can apply to future operations with the ASDF and in his own town of Wasilla.

Building the Bench
All of the members are Alaskan residents, and all are volunteers but not everyone has a background in the United States military.

Chief Warrant Officer 2 (AK) Hillary Palmer worked for the Matanuska-Susitna Borough during the cyber attack in 2018 and said the incident motivated her to take a more active role in her state’s defense. Palmer has no history wearing the military uniform but now spends one weekend a month wearing green camouflage in the ASDF’s cyber security detachment.

“To join you do not have prior military experience,” said Palmer. “There’s a lot of really important technical expertise that exists outside the military, and it would be a shame not capitalize on that expertise.”

The all-volunteer organization capitalizes on that expertise by assigning personnel to its detachments according to their knowledge and qualifications. Members can serve in cyber security, engineering, communications or logistics and supply. Notably, the ASDF maintains a large and professionally diverse medical unit with surgeons, nurses, psychiatrists and chiropractors.

In Palmer’s experience, the ASDF has the flexibility to use everybody’s skillsets while accommodating different schedules.

“We are actively working on modernizing and professionalizing our mechanisms for training and activation,” Palmer explained. “I have a training plan and goals I’m working towards. If I wasn’t available today I could put in eight hours of training on my own time.”

Palmer and the cyber detachment train on a computer programming range, creating decoys and bait for cyber attacks to test their defenses.

Alaskans Serving Alaskans
With 19 detachments, the ASDF has members serving throughout the state. Local volunteers report for drill from as far as Little Diomede in the Bering Strait to Klawock, a city on the west coast of the Prince of Wales Island.

Brig. Gen. (AK) Simon Brown II, the ASDF commander, leads the volunteer militia from Wasilla, his home town of over 20 years. Already a noteworthy figure in his community, Brown is a retired Alaska State Trooper and retired Alaska Army Guardsman, and for the last two years, Brown has served on the Wasilla city council. Regarding his work now as a volunteer, he said he believes Alaska has a strong tradition of state pride prompting a desire to contribute to its defense.

“I’ve been in a uniform since 1973,” said Brown, from his office on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. “Being part of the ASDF is part of who I am and I know that’s the same for all of us. We have never had a disaster where we were short of volunteers.”

Every member of the ASDF volunteers one weekend a month to drill, train and work in the interest of their community’s and state’s preparedness and defense.

“If you don’t expect any financial gain but are in it to help your community develop and grow,” said Radeski. “You will develop and grow and come out of the whole experience much better for it.”


Like Us
Follow Us



USS Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group Departs Yokosuka for 2022 Deployment
The U.S. Navy’s only forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) departs Commander, Fleet Activities Yokosuka (CFAY) for a regularly scheduled deployment, May 20, 2022. Ronald Reagan is deployed to the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific region. For more than 75 years, CFAY has provided, maintained, and operated base facilities and services in support of the U.S. 7th Fleet’s forward-deployed naval forces, tenant commands, and thousands of military and civilian personnel and their families.
May 20, 2022 - YOKOSUKA, Japan -- The U.S. Navy’s only forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) and its strike group departed Commander, Fleet Activities Yokosuka (CFAY) May 20, to support security and stability in the...

Army Leaders Across Indo-Pacific Meet to Discuss Challenges, Opportunities
Gen. Charles A. Flynn, left center, commander of U.S. Army Pacific, and Maj. Gen. JB Vowell, left, commander of U.S. Army Japan, hold a bilateral engagement with Lt. Gen. Toshikazu Yamane, right center, vice chief of staff for the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force, in Honolulu May 18, 2022. Senior leaders from the U.S. Army and more than 20 foreign armies held hundreds of bilateral talks during the Land Forces Pacific Symposium, the largest land power conference in the Indo-Pacific region.
May 20, 2022 - HONOLULU, Hawaii -- Senior leaders from the U.S. Army and more than 20 foreign armies held hundreds of bilateral talks during the largest land power conference in the Indo-Pacific region.The meetings, part of the Land Forces...

Second Iwakuni-based F-35B Squadron Declares Full Operational Capability
U.S. Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II aircraft with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 242 arrive at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, May 17, 2022. Following successful completion of Exercise RED FLAG 22-1, VMFA-242 achieved full operational capability, allowing them to execute a full set of missions as an F-35B Lightning II squadron.
May 20, 2022 - IWAKUNI, YAMAGUCHI, Japan -- Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 242 achieved Full Operational Capability (FOC) and is now ready to support the full complement of its missions. A significant part of this milestone is the...

Army Leaders Say Alliances Will be Key to Success in the Indo-Pacific
Lt. Gen. Willard Burleson (left), the Combined Forces command chief of staff and commander of Eighth Army, greets South Korea's president elect, Yoon Suk-yeol, at Desiderio Arifield on Camp Humphreys, South Korea on Apr. 7, 2022.
May 20, 2022 - HONOLULU, Hawaii -- More than 70 years ago, U.S. forces learned the importance of readiness and partner nation alliances during the Korean War, an Army leader said during the 2022 Land Forces Pacific (LANPAC) Symposium...

U.S. Commitment to Indo-Pacific Region Not Limited by Security Assistance to Ukraine
A M2 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle from 4th Squadron, 70th Armor Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade, 1st Armored Division crosses the Improved Ribbon Bridge (IPB) placed by 11th Engineer Battalion, 2nd Infantry Division (ROK-US Combined Division), Republic of Korea, May 18, 2022; the 11th Engineer Battalion and 4th Squadron, 70th Armor Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade, 1st Armored Division worked together to construct an Improved Ribbon Bridge (IRB) to allow the crossing by M1A2 Abrams tanks and M2 Bradly Infantry fighting Vehicles. Soldiers from across the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team “Ready First”, 1st Armored Division (the current 2nd Infantry Division (ROK-US Combined Division) rotational brigade) as well as other units from 2ID participated in the “Warrior Ready Strike” training exercise to increase their proficiency, learn about operating in the Republic of Korea, and re-affirm the commitment to the ROK-US Alliance.
May 20, 2022 - WASHINGTON -- As of May 6, the U.S. has committed about $4.5 billion in security assistance to Ukraine. Thousands of pieces of military hardware and over 50 million rounds of ammunition were included.Spotlight: Support for...