The U.S. National Guard is looking at beefing up its presence in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta. Maj. Gen. Torrence Saxe is the state's adjutant general, and heads up the Alaska National Guard.
When discussing Western Alaska, Saxe pointed out the armory in Bethel, along with other armories that were once active in the region, noting that the guard used to have more staff stationed in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta. Saxe told KYUK that his priority is to put more people back into those armories.
“There used to be several hundred army soldiers in the area,” said Saxe. “And we have armories, for example, the big one there in Bethel, and I’d like to put more people into places like that. We have armories all over the region, and that’s another thing that we can have with that increased presence: to have people respond in a short amount of time.”
Saxe noted that with more people on the ground, the guard can respond to local emergencies and protect the region from potential hostile forces. From a military perspective, he said, the Y-K Delta plays an important strategic role in national security
“It is very strategic just based on the potential proximity to adversaries: Russia, China, North Korea. It’s very close, and the active duty military is looking at potentially going back to these places as well. My reasoning is we are the permanent party within the National Guard. It just makes sense on a national strategic scale to put our soldiers and airmen back into these places,” said Saxe.
Saxe also said that he is prioritizing stationing a staff person in Bethel to coordinate emergency response in the region.