A needless reduction in force? - Columnists - Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman

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A needless reduction in force?

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In a time of war and heightened national security concerns, former Gov. Sarah Palin and Gov. Sean Parnell have acted concurrently to diminish and disarm an active unit of the state militia, the Alaska State Defense Force (ASDF), with a proven record in disaster response, thereby making Alaskans less safe.

The Alaska Republican Party platform plank regarding military force structure, “We recognize Alaska’s strategic military location and unparalleled training opportunities and welcome the expansion of forces in Alaska, including our Active Duty, Reserves, Alaska National Guard, naval Militia, Coast Guard and Alaska State Defense Force.”

How can an Alaska governor disarm a serving unit of the state militia, given Article 1§19 of the Constitution of the state of Alaska and the Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States?

The ASDF is by statute a part of the organized militia, the bearing of personal arms for which is protected by both the state and federal constitutions.

The diminishment of the Alaska State Defense Force began under former Gov. Sarah Palin in October 2008 with a report by a Washington State Army National Guard JAG officer to then Lieutenant Gov. Craig Campbell, commissioner/TAG, DMVA. This ARNG officer opined that there was a “risk” associated with ASDF personnel carrying weapons. The ARNG officer completely ignored the unblemished record of the ASDF.

Then Campbell used this officer’s opinion as the basis for re-tasking the ASDF away from its state military police constabulary mission to other areas, such as combat support, chemical and weapons of mass destruction support, communications and medical support without any associated increase in funding or equipment.

The ASDF’s state funding for 2012 is $26,000.

There was a reason that the ASDF had a state military police constabulary mission. At no cost to the state, each ASDF soldier provided their time and money for necessary training, uniforms, equipment, vehicle transport and weapons and ammunition that allowed them to act as an armed soldier in an internal security role. Without an increase in funding, they could do no more. The personnel of the ASDF were largely prior military, former police officers, journey tradespeople and professionals who sacrificed to serve their state and its people.

With Governor Parnell’s election, the diminishment of the ASDF was accelerated. Parnell has not only completely disarmed the soldiers of the ASDF, he has allowed a further diminishment in status for the ASDF from an active disaster response unit to that of an inactive, unarmed civil support unit that is, as announced by Brig. Gen. Deborah McManus, commander AK ARNG, to the assembled troops of the ASDF, a “reserve of last resort” to be used only in the most extreme emergencies.

An unarmed military force is a contradiction in terms and more victims waiting to happen.

It is one thing to change the ASDF’s mission, it is another to disarm the soldiers of the ASDF altogether and forbid any training with weapons. This act alone endangers the soldiers of the ASDF and the citizens whom they serve to protect.

The actions on the part of governors Palin and Parnell belied the fact that the ASDF performed without incident in disaster response for more than eight years as an armed state military police constabulary under AS 26.05.070. An Alaska Attorney General’s Opinion dated March 30, 2006, supports ASDF’s role as a state military police constabulary with state police powers.

In 2006, the ASDF was called to active duty for the Houston and Valdez floods and the Hooper Bay fire response. ASDF soldiers participating in the flood duties were awarded the Alaska Emergency Response Ribbon.

Armed ASDF soldiers served in federal Homeland Security missions. All ASDF soldiers participating in Operation Winter Talon of December 2003 through January 2004 were awarded the Alaska Homeland Security Medal.

The goal of Maj. Gen. Tom Katkus, commissioner/TAG, DMVA, is to implement a plan to have a federal only military response to disaster.

Under AS 26.05.100 and National Guard Regulation 10-4 (NGR 10-4), the Alaska State Defense Force is to act as a force multiplier and force augmentation for the Alaska Army National Guard.

The ASDF has saved the state of Alaska hundreds of thousands of dollars in disaster response costs over the years.

As a result of the disarming and retasking of the ASDF, the citizens of Alaska are now less safe.

Larry Wood is a 57-year resident of Alaska and businessman living in Palmer.

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