Representatives from the Alaska State Defense Force were on St. Lawrence Island last week seeking recruits for units that will soon be stood up in Savoonga and Gambell.
Brigadier General Simon Brown, commander of the force, said the unit’s focus is to respond to emergencies throughout Alaska. There have been many emergencies along the coast of Western Alaska in the last five years that have required the state’s attention.
“We have volunteers now in several locations along the west coast, and we’re trying to stand up additional forces to be ready to respond to any kind of emergencies,” Brown said. “One, of course, is the winter storms that have been getting worse and worse along the west coast.”
The Alaska State Defense Force goes in first to any emergency or state disaster situation and prepares the way for longer-term units to help. The two communities of Gambell and Savoonga can help be first on the scene in such situations, Brown said.
“We want to have volunteers from each community that we can train to be ready to do an immediate response, that can start helping take care of Alaskans until additional help comes from other places,” Brown said.
The force signed up volunteers in both Savoonga and Gambell. The next step in the process is to vet them through a background check to see if they qualify for service.
“That process has not been completed yet,” Brown said. “But, we had quite a few people who volunteered. Hopefully, they all make it through the process and we’re hoping to get a team into Savoonga and Gambell.”
Alaskans interested in volunteering for the Alaska State Defense Force can find contact information on the state’s website.
“They can go to the computer and look at the DMVA, the Department of Veterans and Military Affairs website,” Brown said. “They’ll see the Alaska State Defense Force page there. They can find out more information about us, and they can look us up on the web. Both of those places will give them an application and a phone number they can call.”
Image at top: The Alaska State Defense Force practices setting up security for critical infrastructure in a scenario in which they are guarding the antidote to a virus during a drill weekend in 2020. Photo courtesy Alaska Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.