Alaskan Organized Militia deployed to Bethel and Circle to support flood recovery efforts

On Saturday, May 20, the Commissioner of the US Department of Military and Veterans Affairs and Adjutant General of the Alaska National Guard, Major General Torrance Saxe, put the Alaska Organized Militia on notice after the Governor Mike Dunleavy’s declaration of emergency on May 15.

The task force includes members of the Alaska Air National Guard, the Army National Guard and the Alaska State Defense Force.

Lt. Col. Steve Koontz is the current chief of operations for the Alaska National Guard, based at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.

In a May 23 interview, Koontz said, “We’ve been working with the state’s Emergency Operations Center for the past few days. ​​So as they get reports from communities affected by the flooding, we’ve been in constant communication with them. So as they receive requests, they coordinate with various volunteer organizations. So the National Guard is just one of the partners they’ve reached out to help out.”

The Circle’s flood response team in the upper Yukon is comprised of members stationed in Fairbanks. The Bethel team is supplemented by two members based at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, one from Bethel and one from Kwethluk. They flew to Bethel before heading to Crooked Creek by plane.

“So, we sent some people to Bethel and they’re helping with Crooked Creek and, you know, potentially other communities that may be affected once they’re done in Crooked Creek,” Koontz said.

Koontz also noted that Bethel Armory will play a critical role in this response.

“Bethel Armory is manned at this time. And it is capable of receiving evacuees from area communities,” Koontz said.

Requesting assistance from the National Guard is a process. The request is routed through the state’s Division of Emergency Services Operations Center, or EOC.

“Community leaders can contact the state EOC with any need, and then the state EOC will coordinate, you know, whether they coordinate the response with a civilian partner or they ask us, the National Guard, for help,” Koontz said. .

National Guard first responders are located near the state EOC which receives requests for assistance from affected communities.

“We are Alaskans helping Alaskans, and we have members of communities in western Alaska who are grateful to be able to help other Alaskans. So we’re just getting started in those two communities and we haven’t had any reports from them yet, but they were excited to come out and help,” Koontz said.

As of May 23, there have been no reports of injuries or deaths related to the flooding.