State lawmakers on Wednesday got a military briefing on the National Guard’s ability to take out an incoming missile.

Growing tensions with North Korea have raised the profile of the Alaska-based missile defense system.

Alaska National Guard members from Clear Air Force Station and Fort Greely spoke to a small group of state lawmakers and staff for a lunch hour gathering.   

“By and large, Alaskans understand our relative geography,” Maj. Gen. Laurie J. Hummel/Adjutant General, Alaska National Guard. “They understand what’s going on with North Korea and other potential adversaries. Academically, they understand the ground-based midcourse defense system exists at Fort Greeley.

“But to truly see the image of the clamshell opening up and a rocket coming out of the ground from Alaska to go into outer space, to nullify an external threat, it’s very empowering.”

It was a talk replete with computer illustrations demonstrating the technology to detect and intercept ballistic missiles.

Lt. Col. Orlando Ortega, who is based at Fort Greely in Delta Junction, drew a quiet hush when illustrating how an enemy missile would be obliterated long before it approaches North America.

In recent years, he says, Alaskans are becoming more engaged in the state’s military presence and global role.

“The citizens of Alaska are quite aware of what happens at Fort Greely in the past year since we have had an increase of launches from North Korea,” he said.

Rep. Scott Kawasaki (D-Fairbanks), who co-chairs the Joint Armed Services Committee, invited the National Guard.

On Thursday, they will receive formal briefings from several military officials, including Hummel.

“My biggest takeaway is that the United States is safe, that Alaska is safe,” he said. We are the first line of defense for threats from North Korea or Russia.”

The lunchtime briefing represented a break from the ongoing budget debates on the House floor.

Hummel said this week’s visit is perfectly timed. She says the Department of Military Affairs $17 million budget gets leveraged for nearly $700 million in federal assets annually.

“It’s a fantastic opportunity for Alaska because we are an economic engine,” she said. “We provide job training and very meaningful jobs for Alaskan young people, and ways to contribute to the defense enterprise.”

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