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Alaska Army National Guard back in Bethel to monitor potential floods

Published: Apr. 29, 2021 at 8:48 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) -The Alaska Army National Guard is back in Bethel.

A UH-60 Black Hawk and aircrew arrived Tuesday from their home base at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson where they are assigned to the 1st Battalion, 207th Aviation Regiment, according to an Alaska National Guard press release.

They will train to meet their federal mission while assigned in Bethel, and that’s not all they’ll do.

A lot of eyes are on the Yukon and Kuskokwim Rivers with the start of flood season. The soldiers are also on alert to respond to calls for help.

“As you know, living in Alaska, flood season is different every year,” said Lt. Colonel Michele Edwards, the state Army aviation officer. “The risks are slightly different every year as well. We’ve planned out until the risks for flooding subsides.”

The Army National Guard has a long history in Bethel.

“I actually supported the mission in Bethel from 2006-11.” Edwards said.

He now oversees all aviation operations for the Army National Guard. It typically has one to two air crews stationed in Bethel. This year is more challenging as it operates at about half-strength.

“Of the 14 air crews I have for the UH-60, eight of them, and the aircraft, are deployed to do their federal mission in the CentCom area,” Edwards said.

Those deployed crews are taking part in “Operation Inherent Resolve,” with operations in Iraq and Syria.

Meanwhile, the crew in Bethel will remain there for about a month, standing by to help those trapped by any flood.

The Army National Guard works with the Alaska Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, and the National Weather Service to monitor flood conditions.

The first surveillance flights on the Yukon and Kuskokwim Rivers are expected to take place the first week of May.

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