Guard unit ready for action

Posted: Thursday, September 13, 2001

On the Kenai Peninsula, state military forces stand prepared to answer the call to arms.

Following Tuesday's terrorist attacks in New York, Washington, D.C., in which four airplanes were hijacked and crashed -- three into high visibility American landmarks -- U.S. military forces have been placed on Threat Con Delta, the highest threat condition possible.

Although no significant preparations appear to have been made, the Alaska National Guard unit in Kenai is ready to go where needed, should it be summoned.

"There are only two people manning the phones," said Staff Sgt. Roy Brendible. "We're waiting on the call to make the call."

Brendible said Alaska guardsmen are currently on standby, not on call. Current conditions, he said, call for active duty first, but it would not take long for the 3rd Battalion of the 297th Infantry to respond to an emergency.

"It would take us just a matter of hours to be ready."

Sgt. Bruce Gazaway, a spokesperson for the guard headquarters, referred to the National Guard's response time during the Kenai River flood of 1995.

"We had a team on the peninsula before the floods hit," Gazaway said.

"We have a lot of assets that can be mobilized. Some in a matter of hours, some in a matter of days, depending on how sophisticated the equipment is."

The Alaska State Defense Force, also stands ready to assist in any state emergencies. The State Defense Force is a branch of the Alaska Department of Military and Veterans Affairs and reports to Gen. Philip Oates, who is Department Commissioner and Adjutant General of the Alaska Army and Air National Guard.

"By statute, we're a backup to the National Guard for state incidents," said Maj. Phil Nash.

Nash said he received a call from the State Defense Force headquarters in Wasilla Tuesday morning.

"We were advised that we have no mission," Nash said. "Many (defense force members) have their 72-hour bags ready to go.

"In theory, they could be the first responders to a particular incident and should be able to operate without outside support for up to 72 hours. We all have, hopefully, what we'll need -- food, clothes, supplies -- for three days."

Nash said in the time of emergencies, such as in the 2000 Turnagain Arm avalanches, teams of five are put together to respond to a situation.

"Somewhere between two to three hours is the quickest I can roll out a team," Nash said.

"We are not qualified or trained to replace emergency services personnel," Nash said. "We're not cops or firemen. We're home guards who volunteer to assist in emergencies."

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