Alaska National Guard and Mongolian partners work to create further gender equity while responding to disasters

Inside The Gates
Alaska National Guard and Mongolian partners work to create further gender equity while responding to disasters.
Published: Sep. 21, 2022 at 3:17 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - On Sep. 6, the Alaska National Guard engaged with their Mongolian partners in Gobi Wolf 2022, a six-day exercise focused on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief engagement.

The Alaska National Guard has held a strategic relationship with Mongolia since 2003.

“So, every National Guard state is associated to another country. And it gives us an opportunity to exchange emergency management, military or other whole of government training and experiences with similar national disasters,” said Maj. Chelsea Aspelund, with the Alaska National Guard.

Every other year, the guard travels to Mongolia to participate in the exercise. This year, in addition to the nine guard members that participated, the team brought along a volunteer firefighter from the Palmer Fire and Rescue team.

“In this case, we focused on an earthquake scenario. So, Alaska was able to really apply a lot of first-hand experience to our Mongolian counterparts,” Aspelund said.

For the first time ever, Gobi Wolf included a discussion on Women, Peace, and Security. The discussion was centered around the idea of maintaining gender equity while responding to a national disaster.

“If a society is primarily women at home, how do we make sure they have access to emergency response if the men are at work and vice versa,” Aspelund said.

Aspelund said being able to integrate that into an emergency response exercise allows them to be more prepared if a disaster were to strike, which includes how to handle emergency shelter situations. Aspelund said when her team was reviewing case studies from other countries, they discovered how some women might fear going to a shelter due to their safety.

“We had case studies from other countries that said the physical safety of women and children weren’t always provided in shelter environments. So that became a very big factor of discussion. Making sure that physical safety is paramount,” Aspelund said.