EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska — Alaska’s interior is home to more than 17,000 military personnel and their families, and this week the Fairbanks North Star Borough hosted its inaugural Alaska Defense Forum. Playing a role in the event was Brig. Gen. Torrence Saxe, adjutant general of the Alaska National Guard.
Saxe was the moderator during the forum’s mission resiliency discussion, which centered on the role of defense communities.
Members of the panel included Col. Christopher Ruga, garrison commander, U.S. Army Garrison Alaska, Bruce Ward, mayor of the Fairbanks North Star Borough, and Keith Klaehn, chairman of the Colorado Springs, Colo., Association of Defense Communities board of directors.
Ruga, Ward, and Klaehn each shared thoughts and experiences with issues such as housing, health care needs, community planning, and resiliency.
The physical separation of families here in the interior, from their friends and families in the lower 48 states, was a topic highlighted by Ruga, especially in regards to the stress put on the families who are in Alaska while their Soldiers and Airmen are deployed.
“Those are opportunities for us to put our arms around the family members and use the community to make them feel included, to relieve the stressors of daily lives when you go from a two-parent household to a one-parent household all of a sudden,” said Ruga.
The resiliency forum panel also discussed the issue of suicide amongst service members, with each of the panelists sharing ideas and paths that their communities are using to raise awareness and prevention.
Each of them, including Saxe, spoke about the importance of getting to know our neighbors, Soldiers, and Airmen better, emphasizing that those who know you, those who spend the most time with you, have a much stronger impact and can provide the most encouragement for one another.