Inside the Gates: Alaska National Guard wants more rural hubs
Pfc. Molly Erickson started to really consider joining the Alaska Army National Guard when she was a junior at Mt. Edgecumbe High School in Sitka.
"When I was like five years old I saw the uniform," Erickson said. "And then when I got older I saw it more and more."
Erickson says a parent of one of her high school friends was a helicopter pilot.
"I saw him more around and I was like, that looks pretty cool," Erickson said. "His uniform was pretty cool, and what he did was actually pretty cool."
After speaking with a recruiter, Erickson said she intended to go back home to Nome. The recruiter said if she wanted to be in the National Guard, she could do that in Nome. When Erickson turned 18, she made the choice to join.
"No negative to it, it’s all positive. You build more character, more self-development," Erickson said. "There’s no, really, negative. Free college, all paid for. You get paid to go to college. Everything’s basically paid for. Just got to get good grades, show that you’re very interested in hard work."
While serving part time, Erickson also helps manage the grocery store in Nome. She’s exactly what Maj. Gen. Torrence Saxe, the commander of the Alaska National Guard, is looking for. He wants more Alaskan recruits working in nearly National Guard hubs across the state.
"We're looking to hire local and to have folks work local here in Nome," Saxe said.
Saxe is visiting a handful of cities along the state's western coast to try to build on in-state recruiting with the idea that those recruits stay in their communities and become leaders and the ones called upon should any emergency arise.
"I've been in the guard for about 15 years, and I’ve believed the entire time that we were way too focused on Anchorage and Fairbanks," Saxe said. "In other words, places you can drive to. I want Alaska to be for all Alaskans, and I want the guard to be for all Alaskans."
Tech. Sgt. Blassi Shoogukwruk grew up in White Mountain. An Alaska Air National Guard Search and Rescue team once saved him from drowning.
At a recruiter's office in Anchorage, he found out he could be a part of the search and rescue team and was ready to sign up.
"When I was growing up I remember a lot of the folks that were in the National Guard were the leaders in the village," Shoogukwruk said. "And a lot of people that we looked up to as kids, wanted to be like, wanted to emulate."
Shoogukwruk is now a C-17 crew chief in the 176th Wing's Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. He says having another option for the people in Nome and surrounding would do wonder.
“More choices, possible jobs, good training, very good training," Shoogukwruk said "I myself received about 36 college credits just by going to school to become a crew chief."
Being more involved and more hands-on is the approach Saxe is taking. His goal it to get a half dozen hubs up and running, but the challenge is filling the positions. Saxe says he needs a minimum of 12 part-time guardsmen in each hub.
Anyone interested in gaining more information is asked to contact Senior Master Sgt. Lucy Nagel at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 907-428-6906.
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