Inside the Gates: Alaska National Guard continue relief efforts in Louisiana, process Afghan evacuees in New Jersey

Published: Sep. 15, 2021 at 9:27 AM AKDT|Updated: Sep. 15, 2021 at 2:20 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Hurricane relief supplies continue to be delivered to victims of Hurricane Ida in Louisiana.

Seventeen soldiers from the Alaska Army National Guard’s 139th Regional Support Group are helping to get the supplies to those who need them.

The soldiers left for Louisiana on Sept. 3, and are in Roseland, about 80 miles north of New Orleans, as the state recovers from the Aug. 29 storm.

“I think it’s something more so something we all joined the National Guard to do,” said Staff Sgt. Jacob Tyrrell, before he and others left. “It’s one to help people. I think that’s something we all have in our base to do. It’s just a humanitarian thing that we’re all prepared to be just human and help others.”

The Alaska National Guard said Army and Air units have taken part in hurricane relief operations in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, North Carolina and South Carolina since 2017.

Meanwhile, approximately 20 Alaska Air National Guard members remain at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey to help process Afghan evacuees into the U.S.

The guardsmen from the 176th Wing and Joint Force Headquarters left Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson on Sept. 10 to take part in Operation Allies Welcome. The program operated by the Department of Homeland Security, and supported by the Department of State, Department of Defense and U.S. Northern Command helps locate Afghan special immigrant visa applicants around the country. Up to 100 of them are expected to arrive in Alaska by the end of September.

“The Alaska Air National Guard showed another incredible example of volunteerism as so many of our Airmen volunteered on short notice to support Operation Allies Welcome,” Alaska Air National Guard Commander Brig. Gen. Tracy Smith said in a news release.

Members of the 176th Wing helped evacuate U.S. personnel, civilians and Afghan evacuees at the end of August as part of the president’s order to remove American troops from Afghanistan. That wrapped up the Guard’s 20-year mission there.

“The Guard actually became an operational reserve which meant they were part of every conversation both the Air Guard and the Army Guard. Over that 20-year period deployed numerous times,” said Alaska National Guard Director of Joint Staff Brig. Gen. Wayne Don.

The expanded role saw Alaska Guard troops be deployed to other nations as part of the “war on terrorism.” The Guard still responded to natural disasters in Alaska and around the country.

“The toughest part is recognizing each individual is leaving behind a family that’s a wife or a husband, children, moms and dads, brothers and sisters,” Don said.

Those families are waiting for the troops once they complete their latest mission.

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