Alaska National Guard ‘Arctic Eagle 2020’ tests homeland security, emergency response in Arctic environment

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FAIRBANKS, Alaska. (KTVF) Around one thousand national guardsmen from 15 different states have been in Alaska as part of a large exercise known as ‘Arctic Eagle 2020’. The Alaska National Guard hosted the exercise, held every two years for training in the arctic environment. It tests the homeland security and emergency response capability of the National Guard.

A U.S. Army National Guard CH-47 Chinook, assigned to the 1st Battalion, 207th Aviation Regiment, sits on the airfield before heading out to exercise Arctic Eagle 2020 on February, 24, 2020, at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Xavier Navarro)

Since February 22, soldiers have traveled across the state from Bethel to the North Slope Borough as part of the exercise.

Director of public affairs for ‘Arctic Eagle 2020’, Major AJ Ruggieri, says the harsh environment of Alaska lets them test their equipment and techniques in the unique terrain and extreme cold temperatures.

"We obviously can't find that everywhere, so it is important that we make sure our soldiers were prepared, and that the Alaska National Guard is prepared and that these agencies are prepared to work in these kind of conditions. So, it's only an opportunity we get every couple years," said Ruggieri.

The large-scale exercise included 130 aircraft, flying more than 50,000 miles, and carrying more than 450 tons of cargo. Two hundred federal participants were involved, representing agencies ranging from the FBI to the EPA. There were also 400 Alaskan first responders, search and rescue, and medical personnel participating.

“The exercise has been going very well. The soldiers are getting very familiar with the equipment and the conditions that they’re working in. The overall intent is absolutely being met and I think that when these troops go home they will have an experience, that they’ll be able to remember and talk about for a long time,” said Ruggieri.

Partners from other countries took part in the exercise as well, including Canadian forces.

"Obviously their terrain is very similar to our terrain, so there are things that we can share with them, and things they can share with us. This year, we also have some soldiers from Mongolia, also very similar terrain. They’re also observing how we do things, kind of learning from us, and opening that exchange of information so that we not only will have partnerships if we ever need to work with those countries but we'll have good friendships as well," said Ruggieri.

The exercise will conclude on Friday.

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