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Alaska National Guard conducts Earthquake, Tsunami Continuity of Operations exercise North of the Alaskan Range

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Julie Avey
  • 168th Wing

The 168th Wing and the Alaska National Guard Joint Force Headquarters conducted an earthquake continuity of operations (COOP) exercise, moving the joint operations center from Anchorage to Fairbanks, Alaska, May 1-5, 2023. The exercise scenario required members to respond to a large earthquake and multiple tsunamis striking southern Alaska and coastal communities.

“The Arctic Eagle 23 exercise focused on testing our continuity of operations plan and training our service members north of the Alaskan Range,” said Col. Aaron Kelsey, Alaska National Guard Deputy Director of Emergency Operations. “Testing our emergency plans and training our service members is critical to ensuring we are prepared to serve our fellow Alaskans in their time of need.” 

The 168th Wing Joint Operations Center and Crisis Action Management Team worked alongside counterparts from the Army National Guard and members of the Joint Operations Center at Alaska National Guard Joint Force Headquarters to exercise the COOP plans.

“This exercise was extremely important to help us develop and test a continuity of operations plan which will allow us to respond in the event of a significant event in the Anchorage area which reduces or disables the ability of our primary emergency operations command and control agencies to function,” said Col. Michael Griesbaum, 168th Wing commander “The training we received ensures we will be able to effectively respond to help our fellow Alaskans in a crisis and to effectively interface with our local, state, and federal interagency partners.”

The exercise focused on immediate response efforts to a 9.2 magnitude earthquake scenario, including emergency communications to respond to the seismic zone and coordinate with local, state, and federal support agencies. The members of the operations center operated during the exercise under the knowledge of public utilities disrupted and widespread infrastructure damage in southern Alaska.

“We want to be able to respond rapidly and efficiently, and training together allows us to move toward that goal,” said Lt. Col. Joshua Sprague, 168th Wing.

Emergency managers from Washington State also participated in the exercise. The state of Washington is one of the states Alaska has a standing mutual aid agreement partnership with for Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC) capabilities. The EMAC provides another way for states to receive interstate aid in a disaster. All 50 states, three territories, and the District of Columbia have authorized EMAC agreements.

U.S. North American Aerospace Defense Command conducted academic training focusing on the Joint Operations Center to prepare for the emergency response tactical exercise.

“Arctic Eagle 23 brought a diverse group of Alaska National Guard members together, requiring them to form a team, assess the situation, and learn on the job,” said Kelsey. “Arctic Eagle showed once again that the Alaska National Guard is always ready and able to help the Nation and the State regardless of the situation.”

During the exercise, Alaska Air and Army National Guard members rapidly worked together to meet challenges incorporating the best practices to help coordinate emergency response.

“We gained a tremendous amount of insight by having U.S. NORTHCOM, Washington State National Guard emergency operations members, and key members of the Alaska National Guard in one location for the exercise,” said Sprague.

A critical part of the exercise and preparation is strengthening the partnerships before a disaster occurs.

“This is more than just an exercise,” said Griesbaum. “The relationships we formed with our Army Guard friends will be vital if an earthquake of this magnitude does occur. The goal is to be as ready as possible to respond.”