JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska — Alaska Air National Guardsmen of the 176th Wing worked late into the night of Jan. 11 to ensure 20 Alaska National Guard Soldiers and Airmen were ready to depart JBER on a 211th Rescue Squadron HC-130J Combat King II Jan. 12 for the Southeast Alaska community of Yakutat.
The region received tremendous amounts of snow and rain over the previous seven days, prompting a local disaster declaration.
The day prior, Yakutat submitted a declaration of local disaster emergency to the state, and requested assistance with the community’s ongoing emergency. Given the fact that the community is isolated and off the road system, and all local available resources have been exhausted, the State Emergency Operations Center requested Alaska National Guard support.
Lt. Col. Hannah Sims, 176th Force Support Squadron commander, said her unit was instrumental in collecting names of volunteers and processing Active Guard Reserve Airmen before preparing their scheduled relief team of Airmen on state active duty orders.
“Initially, this was an immediate-response authority under which we are only sending out full-time personnel,” she said. “So, all eight of the 176th Wing members who went out the door to Yakutat are AGR personnel, but immediate-response authority only lasts for 72 hours, so Saturday we will be swapping them out for a new request to continue to have 10 Air Guard personnel volunteers out there on state active duty orders.”
Sims explained state active duty orders are necessary to pay Airmen and provide them proper authority while supporting a disaster that isn’t under federal jurisdiction.
“State active duty is for a state-requested response for a domestic operation, in this case helping out Yakutat with snow removal,” she said. “That’s juxtaposed with Title 32 orders that would be for other state training missions or Title 10 federal orders for federal mission support.”
Master Sgt. Santiago Maya, 176th Logistics Readiness Squadron Air Terminal Function superintendent of operations, said the 176th LRS ATF was key in getting the team south to Yakutat with their own ground transportation.
“Our involvement as the air terminal function was to deploy assets down to Yakutat to help assist with the weather they are having down there,” he said. “Our primary focus with the ATF was to joint inspect cargo that was designated to go down, which was a truck with 20 passengers.”
Maya said 176th LRS worked a long day following notification of the mission.
“We got the tasking around [4 p.m.], and once all the gears and wheels started getting into motion, we had everything completed by 10:30 [p.m.] local and then bright and early in the morning to get everything uploaded,” he said. “So it was a long night, early morning, but it worked out, which is great.”
Maj. Chris Brunner, 211th Rescue Squadron HC-130 aircraft commander, said, though he is accustomed to “hiccups” during a routine mission, there were zero issues with this load.
“We showed up, and the LRS and the supporting agencies had everything up and running,” he said. “The Army folks that we were delivering seemed super excited and appreciative.”
Guard members serving on Joint Task Force-Yakutat provided building safety assessments and emergency snow removal for several facilities in the community. Following the hazardous winter weather and heavy snowfall there was significant building damage and continued risk of unsafe conditions.