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Alaska, Maine Guard Conduct Disaster Preparation Exercise

  • Published
  • By Seth LaCount,
  • Alaska National Guard Public Affairs

ANCHORAGE, Alaska - The National Guard’s “Always Ready, Always There” motto symbolizes its vigilant presence across the nation. In Alaska, where natural disasters like earthquakes pose significant threats, a prompt and coordinated response is paramount.

Exercise Vigilant Guard 2024-2, held March 4-8, assessed the readiness of the Alaska National Guard and its partner agencies for such crises.

VG 24-2 simulated a massive 9.2-magnitude earthquake with the epicenter in Southcentral Alaska in Prince William Sound, the same area as the 1964 Good Friday Earthquake. Approximately 350 participants from local, state and federal organizations worked together to reinforce partnerships and preparedness in a joint, interagency environment.

“The more players, the more interagency coordination we can get, the better we can practice,” said Brig. Gen. Kenneth Radford, director of the Alaska National Guard Joint Staff and dual status commander for the exercise. “We have a plan on how we think we’ll respond, but you never know how things are going to play out, until the real event happens.”

The scenarios were executed over five days, with damaged infrastructure in the Municipality of Anchorage, City of Cordova, City of Valdez, and throughout the Kenai Peninsula Borough. The simulated earthquake also triggered tsunami waves in Cordova, Valdez and KPB.

During the simulation, the State Emergency Operation Center was activated and the Alaska National Guard stood up the AKNG Joint Operations Center to aid in relief efforts across the state with personnel from the Alaska Organized Militia.

The Alaska Organized Militia consists of the Alaska Army National Guard, Alaska Air National Guard, Alaska Naval Militia, Alaska State Defense Force and Alaska Civil Air Patrol.

During natural disasters, National Guard units supplement first responders and civilian law enforcement in several ways. In this scenario, service members conducted aerial surveillance, delivered medical supplies and food, transported patients and rescued victims.

In Cordova, Alaska and Maine National Guard members used the Disaster Relief Beddown System, which can house 150 military and first responders in emergencies. The Alaska Air National Guard’s 176th Wing is home to Alaska’s first DRBS, a new resource for the state.

“Snow clearing, frozen ground and transporting the system are some unique challenges we faced in this exercise, but the value of doing it in this environment is we’ll be adequately prepared in the future to mitigate those obstacles,” said Tech Sgt. Paul Carter, a generator mechanic assigned to the AKANG’s 176th Civil Engineer Squadron. “I’ve enjoyed working with our local partners in the community and fellow Guardsmen from out of state.”

The DRBS kit is paired with an Expandable Single Pallet Expeditionary Kitchen, employed in the field by 176th Force Support Squadron Airmen.

“Disasters like this bring a lot of chaos and you don’t often know what to expect,” said Staff Sgt. Kua Xiong, a culinary specialist assigned to the 176th Force Support Squadron. “Our goal is to make life easier for those affected by disasters like this and get them fed.”

As a result of the Vigilant Guard exercise, each branch and department has a better understanding of their role and how to communicate effectively during a crisis. 

“We will be prepared to take care of Alaskans on their worst day,” said Radford. “Our goal for this exercise was to prepare to be ready to respond when the state needs us to ease suffering and take care of Alaskans in a whole-of-state approach. This takes a team effort.”