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PUBLISHED: 3:57 PM on Wednesday, March 19, 2008
National Guard top brass talks of local unit changes
JUNEAU - Move over drivers. Residents may soon notice more military Hummers driving the streets of Juneau as an Alaska National Guard unit's role transitions, said a senior National Guard official earlier this month.

Brig. Gen. Thomas Katkus, assistant adjutant general for the Alaska Army National Guard (AKNG), spoke with Chamber of Commerce members during a March 6 luncheon at the Hanger about the upcoming transformation of local units.


  Brig. Gen. Thomas Katkus speaking at a March 6 luncheon.
He also discussed finding past soldiers who served during World War II and who were not credited with federal military service and may now be entitled to more benefits.

The 3rd Battalion, 297th Infantry Brigade, will reform into a military police unit, Katkus said, to meet the Army's increasing need in areas of occupation, including Iraq and Afghanistan.

"About 30 years ago, with the Cold War going on, infantry was in high demand," he said, adding that currently in the Middle Eastern theatre more technicians, communications specialists and military police are needed.

An aerial unit consisting of two Blackhawk helicopters also will be stationed in Juneau to assist the U.S. Coast Guard with search and rescue missions in Southeast waters.

The result, Katkus said, will be the same number of troops but with different equipment, including more Army Hummers.

Katkus, a former Anchorage police officer, said the soldiers will work with local authorities in areas that are "detrimental issues to Alaska."

"The National Guard provides resources to police departments to ... combat the war on drugs," he said.

Alaskan guardsmen are currently stationed throughout the Middle East and in Kosovo, Mongolia and members of the aviation unit are training in Japan, he reported

Katkus praised local communities for supporting deployed troops through care packages and by assisting family members of those overseas.

"A lot of soldiers from Southeast Alaska are out there doing a phenomenal job," he said. "The community has been great with supporting them."

Kaktus declined to comment personally on the Army's effectiveness overseas, saying he trusted reports from senior military leaders, but said feedback from Alaskan soldiers have been positive. Many soldiers, he said, asked to join other units to continue their deployment.

"They see the folks their affecting," he said. Katkus said he had to deny soldiers' requests to re-deploy because soldiers must mobilize as units, not as individuals.

Half of AKNG's equipment is still in Alaska and at Gov. Sarah Palin's disposal, he said, while 25 percent is deployed and another 25 percent is being used for training purposes. He said Alaska's military resources will not be spread too thin.

Identifying past soldiers

Alaskan military officials hired a private investigator to help locate some of the 6,000 member Alaska Territorial Guard who defended Pacific coasts during World War II from 1942-1947.

Katkus said the soldiers never received discharge paperwork following the war and were not credited with the time served, which could affect their current Veterans Affairs status and qualification for benefits.

"We must recognize them and their service," he said.

Soldiers who served in Alaska during World War II and family members of those who served can contact the Alaska Department of Veterans Affairs at (907) 428-6016 or find more information at www.ak-prepared.com/vetaffairs.


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