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  • Kaje Rockwell

Safety and Security—Your Guardians at Your Games

From as far north as Fairbanks and as far west as St. Lawrence Island, dozens of men and women in the Alaska State Defense Force stepped out of uniform to become your guardians in blue coats and yellow vests during games week. They were here to manage everything from the local Security Operations Center to manning the crosswalks and handling traffic. They committed themselves to sleepless nights and days that seem endless, keeping in touch with law enforcement and emergency services to ensure swift response in the event of an incident, an injury, or a threat to visitor safety.

One soldier from the village of Quinhagak said his father joined the State Defense Force during World War II to protect the islands of Attu and Kiska from attacks.

“My father served for years,” he said “I joined when the colonel came to my village and told me I could join, that I could help the people.” They didn’t have a unit at the time, but now about nine people from the village of 600 have joined. “This is the fourth mission I have been on. I have never seen this many people, all together, with joy on their faces for a game.”

Another soldier came from Savoonga on St. Lawrence Island. “Back home, I am captain,” he said. “I have traveled every inch of my island, every mile. I know the current. I know the waters…the people of the Bering Strait are hunters. We depend on the land for everything.”

“Back home, we don’t have cars. We have ATVs. We don’t have roads. It’s tundra. It’s a once in a lifetime experience, coming here, helping people.” Such as helping attendees with wheelchairs during the Opening Ceremony.

He has a special connection to the Arctic Winter Games, having participated in Yellowknife in 2008. “I was a champion in the Winter Games once. I was champion in the snowshoe race many years ago.”

“I learned because we use snowshoes on our island sometimes,” he said. “I was fast, and I trained for a long time to compete.”

He has a mission to build shelter for the homeless on the island. “I work for a company, a company that builds houses for them. This year, we have already built two. But there are so few of us, and too many who have no shelter.”

Many soldiers in the State Defense Force have similar experiences. They train for years, developing skills, harboring a passion to give people aid, and are available when they are needed most.

A year of preparation has gone into helping at these Games. Command staff has grown gray hairs over it. But the effort is not without good cause for the safety of visitors, athletes, families, friends, strangers, neighbors, leaders, and special guests.


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