Alaska Guard assists with winter storm emergency evacuations

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Candis Olmstead,
  • Alaska National Guard Public Affairs

JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska – The Alaska National Guard is providing emergency response assistance to the Fairbanks North Star Borough after extreme snow and ice in Interior Alaska caused power outages and stranded some residents.

Air National Guard and Army National Guard personnel who live in the borough volunteered for Operation Winter Storms to assist their local community with emergency transportation. Ten personnel and several vehicles are staged at the Fairbanks National Guard Armory, on standby to assist local authorities with ground evacuation operations for people isolated by extreme cold along roads impassable by commercial or private means.

The National Guard’s efforts are in response to a request from the Alaska State Emergency Operations Center, prompted by a request from the FNSB Emergency Operations Center.

The SEOC is managed by the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, which falls within the Alaska Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (DMVA). Maj. Gen. Torrence Saxe, adjutant general of the Alaska National Guard and commissioner for DMVA, has been in communication with Gov. Mike Dunleavy and FNSB Mayor Bryce Ward to ensure necessary support to the region.

“The SEOC has been monitoring multiple weather-related incidents statewide this week,” said Saxe. “For many communities throughout the Interior, reports indicate widespread power outages and significant disruptions for both road and air travel, and we are working with state and local agencies to assist as needed.”

Saxe said the SEOC remains in contact with the State Department of Transportation and Public Facilities and officials from affected communities to monitor and respond to the developing situation.

Joint Task Force-Winter Storms is assigned a four-wheel drive, six-passenger truck with optional chains and two small unit support vehicles (SUSV), the U.S. Army’s Arctic all-terrain vehicle; a tracked, two-pod transport with excellent mobility that can fit about 15 passengers.

Members of the JTF-WS team providing direct support to FNSB represent several units in the Alaska National Guard, including Airmen from the 168th Wing’s Security Forces Squadron, Force Support Squadron, and Maintenance Squadron; and Soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 297th Infantry Regiment and 297th Military Police Company.