ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Gov. Tony Knowles has taken the first steps toward having the Alaska Air National Guard monitor Alaska's airspace for the next four years.
That job now is the responsibility of the U.S. Air Force and the 611th Air Control Squadron at Elmendorf Air Force Base. But Knowles recently signed a memorandum of understanding to facilitate the transition for monitoring the Alaskan North American Aerospace Defense Command Region, also known as NORAD, from the Air Force to the Air National Guard.
''This homeland defense mission is a natural role for the National Guard,'' Knowles said. ''Members will maintain a 24-hour, 7 day a week mission responsible for detecting, identifying, and monitoring any object in the Alaskan NORAD Region airspace. This mission of constant vigilance is vital to ensuring the safety of North America and it's a mission that I know our Air Guard can do well.''
The Alaska Air National Guard currently has three members working as a transition team at the Regional Air Operations Center. A small contingent of Canadian Forces military members that work with the 611th Air Control Squadron will continue after the Air Guard takeover.
The additional responsibility will require that a new unit be created within the Air Guard. In all, nearly 150 jobs, most of them full-time, will be added, officials said.
''This will be the last NORAD regional unit to transfer to Air Guard control and we welcome the new responsibility,'' said Maj. Gen. Phil Oates, Adjutant General of the Alaska National Guard and Commissioner of the state's Department of Military and Veterans' Affairs.
He said in three other states where Regional Air Operations Centers are operated by Air Guard units, training costs have been lowered and worker retention increased.
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