Calista board member Wayne Don became a brigadier general in the National Guard this past weekend. He has been serving as the director of the joint staff in Alaska and heading up the Alaska National Guard’s COVID-19 Response Team, which has meant doing contact tracing, food distribution in Southcentral Alaska, and being prepared to do more if needed.
“Nobody has needed guard assistance, which is a good thing,” said Don. “It means that the capacity in each of the communities hasn’t been exhausted. So really, when a community can’t deal with the issues in front of them is usually when we get called in.”
Don is not the highest ranking Alaska Native to ever serve in the Alaska National Guard. There have been three men who have reached the rank of adjutant general.
“Ed Pagano from the Aleutian Islands, John Schaeffer from Kotzebue, and Jacob Lestinkoff from the Aleutian Islands area,” listed Don.
Don’s family history with the military reaches back to World War II, when two of his grandfathers served in the Alaska Territorial Guard. His own path in the military started in college at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, when he joined the army reserve and ROTC. At the time, he was struggling with school.
“It really helped focus me as far as my studies, and that first assignment that I took really excited me about what it meant to be a soldier, what it meant to serve. I’ve been hooked ever since,” said Don.
Don said that the Alaska National Guard needs more recruits, and anyone who is interested should not hesitate to talk to a recruiter or a veteran.
“I don’t think you’d ever regret your decision, for sure, if you decided to do it,” Don said.
Don is the first guardsman from the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta to become a general, and he is the highest ranking Alaska Native guardsman now serving.
Listen to the full conversation with Brig. Gen. Don here.