State works to boost National Guard presence in villages

BETHEL — A statewide effort is under way to restore the presence of the National Guard in rural Alaska communities.

Former Bethel resident Command Sgt. Maj. Richard Hildreth is leading the Rural Guard Initiative, which seeks to promote guard participation in the state’s remote and rural communities, KYUK-FM reported. He was assigned to the project by the adjutant general of Alaska, Gen. Laurie Hummel.

“We recognized that rural participation in the guard was dwindling,” said Hildreth. “It was her desire to try to get more guard participation out in some of these rural and remote communities. The Rural Initiative is to attempt to try to regain some of that participation out in these communities.”

The initiative follows the Rural Guard Commission’s recommendations. The commission was created by Gov. Bill Walker and Lt. Gov. Byron Mallot to find effective ways to boost the guard’s rural presence. The commission’s report points to the need to monitor 54,000 miles of Alaska coast and having guardsman in communities to provide immediate support in emergency situations.

Myron Naneng, president of the Association of Village Council Presidents, said he first noticed the decline of the National Guard during a disaster a couple of years ago.

“There was a flood at Kotlik and there was only one National Guardsman that was there in the village, and he didn’t have a lot of resources to help the rest of the community to help deal with what they were going through at the village level,” said Naneng.

In the past, guardsmen would serve as community leaders and were vital in bringing needed income into impoverished villages, said Naneng.

According to the Alaska Army National Guard, the Yukon-Kuskokwim region had about 600 active duty guardsmen in the 1980s. That figure today is less than 40.

Hildreth said the National Guard leadership plans to get village communities more involved by making information more accessible and sending in recruiters.

Bethel, Hooper Bay, Kipnuk, Quinhagak, and Kwethluk have recognized National Guard armories or detachments. Hildreth said he hopes people near those villages will enlist with the Guard so they can form squads.

More in News

The Aurora Borealis glows over the Mendenhall Glacier in 2014. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Aurora Forecast

Forecasts from the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Geophysical Institute for the week of Feb. 5

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Police calls for Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2023

This report contains information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire 
Edward Richards, left, a high school student in the Sitka School District, talks about the lack of mental health services in Alaska’s public schools as part of the testimony also offered by district Superintendent Frank Hauser, center, and student Felix Myers during a Senate Education Meeting on Monday at the Alaska State Capitol. The committee is proposing a 17% increase in the state’s school funding formula, which was remained essentially flat since 2017.
School’s in at the Capitol

Students and education leaders from around state make case for more classroom cash.

Folks at the Alaska State Capitol openly admit to plenty of fish tales, but to a large degree in ways intended to benefit residents and sometimes even the fish. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
The bizarre bills other state legislatures are considering

Alaska’s Legislature isn’t mulling the headline-grabbers some statehouses have in the works.

This photo shows snow-covered hills in the Porcupine River Tundra in the Yukon Territories, Canada. In July 1997, a hunter contacted troopers in Fairbanks, Alaska, and reported finding a human skull along the Porcupine River, around 8 miles (13 kilometers) from the Canadian border. Investigators used genetic genealogy to help identify the remains as those of Gary Frank Sotherden, according to a statement Thursday, Feb. 2, 2023, from Alaska State Troopers. (AP Photo / Rick Bowmer)
Skull found in ‘97 in Interior belongs to New York man

A skull found in a remote part of Alaska’s Interior in 1997… Continue reading

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Police calls for Saturday, Feb. 4, 2023

This report contains information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Officer William Hicks stands with JPD Chief Ed Mercer and Deputy Chief David Campbell during a swearing in ceremony for Hicks on Thursday at the JPD station in Lemon Creek. (Jonson Kuhn / Juneau Empire)
New officer joins JPD’s ranks

The Juneau Police Department welcomed a new officer to its ranks Thursday… Continue reading

These photos show Nova, a 3-year-old golden retriever, and the illegally placed body hold trap, commonly referred to as a Conibear trap, that caught her while walking near Outer Point Trail last week. (Courtesy / Jessica Davis)
Dog narrowly survives rare illegally placed trap in Juneau

State wildlife officials outlined what to do if found in similar situation

Most Read