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More than 200 Air and Army National Guard members travelled by ferry, plane and vehicle to the outlying community of Valdez, Alaska, to participate in a portion of exercise Arctic Eagle, Feb. 20-26.

Arctic Eagle is a statewide exercise involving national, state and local agencies designed to provide opportunities for 1,100 participants to conduct sustained operations in arctic conditions.

Valdez is located in the southeast region of the state near the head of the Prince William Sound and tucked into the heavily glaciated Chugach Mountain Range. With an average of more than 300 inches of snow per year, this remote community provided optimal conditions to test the National Guard’s ability to respond to high-threat radiological scenarios.

Valdez didn’t fail to provide real-world trials in the form of snow, low visibility, fog, icy roads, and high winds during the 5-day training exercise. Access to the community also challenged service members as they creatively moved Homeland Response Force equipment and Washington National Guard personnel from Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington, to the remote coastal town. The forefront of this exercise saw cancelled and delayed flights, ground transportation and rerouting of aircraft.

Air travel movement of resources to Valdez using the C-17 Globemaster III, a cargo transport aircraft belonging to the 249th Airlift Squadron, Alaska Air National Guard, was planned for the two aircraft from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson picking up personnel and equipment from Fairchild AFB. However, it was determined during the planning phase that the aircraft was unable to land at Pioneer Field, the local Valdez airport, and plans were made to bring the equipment and personnel back to Anchorage.

“The winter is a really challenging time of year to land in Valdez,” said Maj. Laura Grossman, a pilot with the 176th Wing, Alaska Air National Guard and one of two pilots who flew the C-17s roundtrip from Anchorage to Fairchild. “The runway isn’t plowed, and even if we were able to land, the runway is too slick and wouldn’t allow us to take off.” Read more

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More than 200 Air and Army National Guard members travelled by ferry, plane and vehicle to the outlying community of Valdez, Alaska, to participate in a portion of exercise Arctic Eagle, Feb. 20-26.