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Inside the Gates: Alaska Army National Guard continues mission, even with resources stretched thin

Updated: Jun. 2, 2021 at 3:46 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The Alaska Army National Guard continues doing its job, even when it doesn’t have all of its resources, including the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters.

“Of the 14 air crews I have for the UH-60′s, eight of them and the aircraft are deployed to do their federal mission in the (U.S. Central Command) area,” said Lt. Col. Michele Edwards, who oversees flying operations for the Army National Guard.

The absent crews and helicopters are in Kuwait, on a nine-month mission supporting Operation Inherent Resolve, part of the U.S. effort to increase stability in the region.

The reduced number of equipment and personnel has forced the Army National Guard to change its strategy. It sent one UH-60 and a crew to Bethel in April to monitor for flooding along the Yukon and Kuskokwim Rivers. They are typically sent there in case anyone needs to be rescued as the ice melts. This year is a bit different while a good part of the personnel and equipment are deployed overseas.

“Normally in Bethel, we have anywhere from one to two air crews stationed there all the time,” Edwards said.

While the strategy may have changed, the guard’s main mission hasn’t.

“While we may be reduced in numbers and aircraft, we’re not reduced in sheer capability and the ability to support when called upon,” Edwards said.

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