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Alaskan Command shield
|Active||November 15, 1942 – present|
|Role||Defense of Alaska|
|Part of||United States Northern Command|
|Garrison/HQ||Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson|
|Lt Gen Russell J Handy|
The Alaskan Command (ALCOM) is a joint sub-unified command of the United States Northern Command, (formerly of United States Pacific Command) responsible for operations in and around the state of Alaska. Alaskan Command is charged with maintaining air sovereignty, deploying forces for worldwide contingencies as directed by the Commander, Pacific Command, providing support to federal and state authorities during civil emergencies and conducting joint training for the rapid deployment of combat forces. ALCOM combined forces include more than 16,000 Air Force, Army, Navy and Coast Guard personnel, and 3,700 guardsmen and reservists. Recently, the Command Representative for Missile Defense position was created to be the focal point for all issues related to Ground-Based Midcourse Defense in Alaska, in support of Alaskan Command, the Alaska NORAD Region, and the Eleventh Air Force.
- Eleventh Air Force, headquartered at Elmendorf Air Force Base
- United States Army Alaska, headquartered at Fort Richardson
- United States Naval Forces, Alaska, headquartered in Juneau
ALCOM was established 1 January 1947, as a unified command reporting to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The command was founded based on lessons learned during World War II, when a lack of unity of command hampered operations to drive the Japanese from the western Aleutian Islands of Attu and Kiska.
ALCOM was charged with the defense of Alaska and its surrounding waters, and to furnish humanitarian support during disasters, such as the 1964 Alaska earthquake. The Alaskan Air Command, United States Army Alaska and the Navy’s Alaskan Sea Frontier were the three original ALCOM service components.
The Alaskan Sea Frontier was inactivated in 1971 as part of post-Vietnam military reductions. Responsibility for the defense of the Aleutian Islands was transferred to U.S. Pacific Command, again creating a lack of unity of command for Alaskan defense. U.S. Army Alaska was inactivated in 1974, and ALCOM followed suit in 1975.
The problem of disjointed command was corrected in July 1989 with the creation of a new "Alaskan Command", a subordinate unified command reporting to the Commander, U.S. Pacific Command. This new command recognized Alaska’s important role in the Pacific by putting all military forces in the state of Alaska and under the leadership of one commander.
Eleventh Air Force
The Eleventh Air Force provides forces to maintain air superiority in Alaska and support Alaska-based ground forces, and combat-ready air forces for employment by unified commanders to preserve the national sovereignty of the United States and defend U.S. interests overseas. The largest subordinate units in the Eleventh Air Force are the 3d Wing at Elmendorf and the 354th Fighter Wing at Eielson Air Force Base, near Fairbanks.
The 3d Wing provides air defense and air superiority in Alaska, and supports Pacific Air Forces during contingencies in the U.S. Pacific Command area of responsibility. The 3d Wing is equipped with the F-22 Raptor air superiority fighter. The wing's Raptor fighters stand active air defense alert 24-hours-a-day, year-round in support of the North American Aerospace Defense mission. The 354th Fighter Wing uses the F-16 Fighting Falcon to provide close air support and battlefield air interdiction requirements of the United States Army Alaska and Pacific Air Forces mobility commitments.
Military airlift in Alaska is provided by the 3d Wing's 517th Airlift Squadron at Elmendorf with C-17 Globemaster III and C-12 aircraft. The 962d Airborne Air Control Squadron flies the E-3 Sentry, which can direct friendly fighter aircraft to intercept and identify unknown aircraft as they enter U.S. airspace and also augment existing ground-based radar systems by providing a survivable airborne radar platform during hostilities.
Remote locations of the 11AF are operated by the 611th Air Support Group at Elmendorf. Those locations include: Galena and King Salmon airports, Eareckson Air Station on Shemya Island, and a network of 18 Air Force radar sites throughout Alaska.
When mobilized, the state's Air National Guard becomes an integral part of Pacific Air Forces and Alaskan Command. The Alaska Air National Guard maintains KC-135 Tankers (168th Air Refueling Wing), C-130s and air rescue HH-60 Pavehawk helicopters (176th Wing).
United States Army Alaska
United States Army Alaska (USARAK) is a subordinate element of U.S. Army Pacific, headquartered at Fort Shafter, Hawaii. The new organization, commanded by a major general, is a result of a Department of the Army decision in March 1993 to downsize the 6th Infantry Division (Light), which was the principal Army unit in Alaska, and reactivate the 172nd Infantry Brigade (Separate). USARAK's mission is to be prepared to deploy rapidly in the Pacific theater and elsewhere as directed in support of contingency operations, U.S. Pacific Command objectives and United States national interests.
U.S. Army Alaska commands to two brigade combat teams, an Combat Aviation Brigade, a Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, the United States Army garrisons in Alaska as well as tenant organizations, the NCO Academy and Reserve Component units:
- 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division at Fort Wainwright
- 4th Airborne Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division at Fort Richardson
- 3rd Maneuver Enhancement Brigade at Fort Richardson
- 16th Combat Aviation Brigade at Fort Wainwright
Tenant organizations are located at each USARAK installation and include the USA Medical Department Activity-Alaska, USA Dental Activity-Alaska, a signal battalion, and the Bureau of Land Management. The Reserve Component units located throughout the state include a National Guard Infantry Group (Scout) consisting of three Infantry Battalions, a Support Battalion, an Aviation Battalion, and a United States Army Reserve Engineer Company (B-411, whose battalion headquarters are in Hawaii) and a Reserve Hospital.
The commander of the 17th Coast Guard District, United States Coast Guard, commands U.S. Naval Forces Alaska, accomplishing both the peacetime and wartime naval tasks in the state. Major peacetime responsibilities include search and rescue, law enforcement of territorial waters, maintenance of navigational maritime aides and ensuring maritime safety. Naval Forces Alaska has the task force designator Task Force 91.
District 17 forces are located at Petersburg, Juneau, Ketchikan, Homer, Seward, Tok, Anchorage, Kenai, Valdez, Nome, St. Paul, and three air stations at Kodiak, Sitka and Cordova (seasonal). The district uses a wide variety of vessels, including tenders, patrol boats and medium endurance cutters. During wartime, Coast Guard forces provide the majority of naval forces in Alaska for the defense of the state's 33,000 miles (53,000 km) of shoreline.
Due to budget constraints and warming relations with former adversaries, the Naval Air Station at Adak Island was closed in March 1997. Prior to the deactivation, Adak's mission had shifted from providing support to air operations for antisubmarine warfare forces to one of providing short term support of transiting aircraft and ships. The island's population had shrunk to approximately five hundred unaccompanied personnel residents - down from a peak of nearly 5000 active duty and family members.