FAIRBANKS (AP) -- What started out as a roughly three-month stint as the commander of about 2,000 active duty, reserve and National Guard troops in Qatar has turned into a six-month deployment for the newly appointed head of the Alaska Air National Guard.
Col. Tim Scott, a brigadier-general select who has spent the last 2.5 years commanding almost 700 people at the 168th Air Refueling Wing at Eielson Air Force Base, said the decision to stay in Qatar was not his.
Scott was scheduled to return to Alaska at the beginning of December.
Al Udeid is one of three U.S. military bases in Qatar.
Scott said that like other senior commanders serving at forward deployed military bases in the Middle East, he was kept at the helm of the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing at Al Udeid Air Force Base to continue relationship building with Qatar.
Since taking command at Al Udeid Sept. 4, Scott has seen an improvement in quality of life at the base as the U.S. military's presence in the Middle East increases.
When Scott took the helm there he called it the ''largest, most active base in the Central Command.'' The U.S. Central Command includes 25 countries as far north as Kazakhstan, through the Middle East and into northern Africa as far south as Kenya.
Qatar, an Arab country about the size of Connecticut, is in the middle of the region and the center of the Arabian Peninsula bordering the Persian Gulf.
At the time, reports were surfacing that the base was being looked as a potential host for a forward headquarters for the U.S. Central Command and the war on Iraq. Army Camp As Sayliyah outside Qatar's capital, Doha, was selected instead.
Nonetheless, Al Udeid would play an important role providing air refueling with the KC-135s and KC-10s that are stationed there.
Scott told the Fairbanks News-Miner that some of the changes he's seen at Al Udeid include the laying of eight miles of pavement, improved Internet capability and larger mess facilities to feed the troops.
He also said he's also seen an increased sense of readiness among those serving at the base. ''Increased vigilance is the word of the day,'' Scott said. ''We pray for peace, we prepare for war.''
Guard spokesman Maj. Mike Haller said there are about two dozen Alaska Army and Air Guardsmen deployed to various undisclosed locations in the Middle East. That's a low number compared to other Guard and reserve units in the Lower 48 being called up for deployments.
But that may change if tension continue to increase between the U.S. and North Korea.
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