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Alaska National Guard Conducts Earthquake, Tsunami Exercise

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Julie Avey,
  • 168th Wing Public Affairs

EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska - The 168th Wing and the Alaska National Guard Joint Force Headquarters conducted an earthquake continuity of operations (COOP) exercise, moving the joint operations center from Anchorage to Fairbanks May 1-5. 

The exercise scenario required members to respond to a large earthquake and multiple tsunamis striking southern Alaska and coastal communities.

“The Arctic Eagle 23 exercise focused on testing our continuity of operations plan and training our service members north of the Alaskan Range,” said Col. Aaron Kelsey, Alaska National Guard deputy director of emergency operations. “Testing our emergency plans and training our service members is critical to ensuring we are prepared to serve our fellow Alaskans in their time of need.”

The 168th Wing Joint Operations Center and Crisis Action Management Team worked alongside counterparts from the Army National Guard and members of the Joint Operations Center at Alaska National Guard Joint Force Headquarters.

“This exercise was extremely important to help us develop and test a continuity of operations plan which will allow us to respond in the event of a significant event in the Anchorage area which reduces or disables the ability of our primary emergency operations command and control agencies to function,” said Col. Michael Griesbaum, 168th Wing commander. “The training we received ensures we will be able to effectively respond to help our fellow Alaskans in a crisis and to effectively interface with our local, state and federal interagency partners.”

The exercise focused on the immediate response to a 9.2 magnitude earthquake, including emergency communications to respond to the seismic zone and coordinate with local, state and federal agencies. In this scenario, the earthquake disrupted public utilities and caused widespread infrastructure damage in southern Alaska.

“We want to be able to respond rapidly and efficiently, and training together allows us to move toward that goal,” said Lt. Col. Joshua Sprague, 168th Wing.

Emergency managers from Washington state also participated in the exercise. Alaska has a mutual aid agreement with Washington for Emergency Management Assistance Compact capabilities. All 50 states, three territories, and the District of Columbia have EMAC agreements, enabling interstate aid in a disaster.

U.S. North American Aerospace Defense Command conducted academic training focusing on the Joint Operations Center to prepare for the emergency response tactical exercise.

“Arctic Eagle 23 brought a diverse group of Alaska National Guard members together, requiring them to form a team, assess the situation, and learn on the job,” said Kelsey. “Arctic Eagle showed once again that the Alaska National Guard is always ready and able to help the nation and the state regardless of the situation.”

During the exercise, Alaska Air and Army National Guard members worked together to coordinate the emergency response.

“We gained a tremendous amount of insight by having U.S. NORTHCOM, Washington state National Guard emergency operations members, and key members of the Alaska National Guard in one location for the exercise,” said Sprague.

“This is more than just an exercise,” said Griesbaum. “The relationships we formed with our Army Guard friends will be vital if an earthquake of this magnitude does occur. The goal is to be as ready as possible to respond.”