By Lee Revis
Editor, Valdez Star 

Military exercises brought hundreds of personnel to town last week

Arctic Eagle exercise saved Valdez from mock disaster – and one real incident

 

February 28, 2018

Image by 2nd Lt. Marisa Lindsay

U.S. Coast Guard Station Valdez members head back to after an exercise in recovering hazardous radioactive material from a civilian vessel in the Port of Valdez.

Satellites with nuclear materials falling from the sky, pending disaster from the Grain Silos on the floating dock - and one real oil spill incident - are just some of the scenarios that played out in Valdez last week as military members from Alaska and beyond drilled in Exercise Arctic Eagle.

An impressive array of military equipment has poured into Valdez the past month, including a caravan and equipment that arrived on the ferry Wednesday.

A large number of the personnel that came to Valdez were National Guardsmen. In addition to Alaska members, units from across the US participated in the drill, including units from Utah, Connecticut and Washington.

The stated purpose of the Arctic Eagle 18 is "a statewide exercise involving national, state and local agencies designed to provide opportunities for participants to conduct sustained operations in arctic conditions," Capt. Joseph Siemande said in a press release. "The goals of Arctic Eagle 18 are for participating forces to operate in a joint, interagency, and intergovernmental and multinational environment; assess ability to conduct sustained operations in arctic conditions, and integrate new and emerging capabilities."


One scenario involved a response to identify a substance in the port that could be of radiological nature from a satellite that has crash landed; the US Coast Guard then simulated a search of a yacht suspected of picking up radiological materials from the water.

However, the Alaska National Guard was most proud of its real time response to the oil spill that occurred when the Big State Logistics oil tanker overturned on the Richardson Highway and Dayville Road.

Guardsmen from the 103rd Civil Support Team, Alaska National Guard, and Washington National Guard Homeland Response Force worked with first responders after the real-life diesel spill.

"The Valdez Fire Department asked for our assistance in containing a fuel spill from a diesel tanker truck that tipped over, went off the road and ruptured a tank," said Lt. Col. Steve Wilson, assistant director of the exercise.

The presence of the units was fortuitous for Valdez and the Guardsmen.

"We have about 250 Guardsmen in Valdez for this exercise and many of them are part of the response cell for Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear response and they have the training to operate in a hazardous materials environment and the personal protection equipment to do that too," Wilson said.


Image by Staff Sgt. Balinda O'Neal Dresel

Arctic Eagle began last week at the joint Operations Center at the Alaska National Guard Armory on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.

 

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