State defense force wants more recruits

Posted: Friday, November 02, 2001

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- Taking advantage of the sudden spotlight, the Alaska State Defense Force announced it was looking for new recruits.

The volunteer force gained statewide attention this week when Gov. Tony Knowles asked it to help Alaska State Troopers staff a Dalton Highway security checkpoint. The checkpoint is to help guard the trans-Alaska oil pipeline.

Knowles ordered the heightened security after FBI warnings of possible terrorist attacks.

New recruits would not be used at the checkpoint. The force is simply looking for new members, said Kerre Fisher, a spokeswoman for the defense force.

The 250-member force supports civilian and military authorities during domestic emergencies and natural disasters. It also helps with local searches and traffic control.

The state pays for services rendered but not for once-a-month training, Fisher said.

At least 75 percent of the state force must have previous military experience. The force trains those without a military background.

The force has four battalions.

Eight force members will work the Dalton Highway checkpoint. Maj. John Seamands, of the 3rd Battalion in Fairbanks, said four members went to the checkpoint Wednesday and that another four will head up next week.

The 3rd Battalion's most recent mission was to provide 24-hour guard for the moving Vietnam Memorial this summer, Seamands said. The battalion's 30 members also provide help at the annual Golden Days Parade and during local dog races, he said.

Statewide the force was used in search and rescue efforts after the January 2000 Turnagain Arm avalanche. It also was used for security during the 1996 Miller's Reach fire near Big Lake.

Those interested in signing up must be Alaska residents, in good health and at least 17 years old. For more information call 2nd Lt. Ron Schramm at (907) 456-2452.

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