FORT SAM HOUSTON. U.S. Army North hosted planners from Alaska from Feb. 3-5 to explore and develop options that will allow for effective response to the “Last Frontier” state in times of need.
The meeting stemmed from a regional realignment of forces in the Northern Command (NORTHCOM), Pacific Command (PACOM), and Alaska areas.
Alaska Command (ALCOM) is now a year and a half into a three-year transition from PACOM to NORTHCOM. ALCOM, headquartered at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage, Alaska, was formerly a sub-unified command under PACOM. With the transition comes a need to codify roles and relationships with regard to a Homeland Defense (HD) or Defense Support of Civil Authorities (DSCA) event in Alaska, and developing the best options for command, control and coordination was the focus of the meeting.
ALCOM’s Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations, Air Force Col. Travis Koch, praised the efforts of the officers who’ve been working to plan this for months.
“MAJ John Robinson from ARNORTH and MAJ Chris Ricci from my staff spearheaded this effort,” Koch said. “This meeting has been successful in large part due to their preparation.”
ALCOM is no stranger to natural disasters. Alaska regularly experiences sea storms, earthquakes, volcanic activity, and wildfires. ALCOM usually has the ability to respond to those events with minimal outside assistance, but not always.
“We spent the lion’s share of our discussion on the large or catastrophic events that could challenge our capacity to respond,” said Koch.
COL Dave Davidson, ARNORTH’s Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations, said this planning is critical to Army North with regard to its role as a theater army.
“In today’s environment, the homeland is not just a force projection platform. Bad things, both natural and man-made, can happen here. We have to be prepared to respond,” he said, acknowledging that geographical separation is the greatest challenge when considering events in Alaska.
United States Army Alaska (USARAK) and United States Army Pacific (USARPAC) also participated in the planning meeting since they have a role to play in Alaska disaster response. COL Clint Baker, Davidson’s counterpart at USARAK, said that he was hoping to gain more clarity on how USARAK will fit in to the NORTHCOM and ARNORTH contingency plans. Baker said that the structure of the meeting allowed each organization to see issues from the perspective of others.
“This was a good catalyst for hard planning that needed to be done. I’m very happy to see us making inroads,” said Baker.
Within the next month, Koch and Davidson will brief their respective commanding generals on the outcomes of the planning meeting, ultimately leading to decisions on future command relationships.