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Northern Command exercise concludes

by 1st Lt. Erika Yepsen
Joint Task Force-Alaska Public Affairs

5/17/2007 - FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AFPN) -- After nearly 10 days of mock terrorist attacks, drug runners and train collisions, the Alaska Shield/Northern Edge 2007 exercise came to a close May 15.

The exercise, part of U.S. Northern Command's nationwide Ardent Sentry/Northern Edge 2007, improved coordination between the Department of Defense and federal, state, local and private agencies as they responded to a variety of challenging scenarios including a hurricane in Rhode Island and a nuclear detonation in Indiana.

In Alaska, where the state's Alaska Shield and Department of Defense's Northern Edge exercises are conducted simultaneously every other year, this year's exercise focused on the state's energy sector. Military and civilian authorities worked together to intercept aircraft, respond to attacks on the Trans-Alaska Pipeline system and the North Pole Industrial Complex, and conduct medical evacuations after mass casualty incidents.

"The goal is to find those fatal flaws in our tactics, techniques and procedures during peacetime so that if a crisis actually happens, we'll have some experience," said Jeff Fee, Joint Task Force-Alaska's director of readiness, exercises and training. "You can take a time-out in an exercise, but there's no time-out if it actually happens."

The exercise was designed to test the ability of military and civilian authorities at all levels, from the first responders, who reacted to the individual scenarios, to the president of the United States, whose participation was simulated by exercise controllers.

Planning for Alaska Shield/Northern Edge started more than a year prior to the exercise's kickoff May 7. In creating the script for the exercise, planners looked for places where they believed gaps in communication and processes existed and developed scenarios to test them, Mr. Fee said.

"This exercise did exactly what it was designed to do -- it challenged our military first responders with how they would work in coordination with civilian authorities in the event of an emergency," said Lt. Gen. Douglas Fraser, the Joint Task Force-Alaska commander.

"We found some areas for improvement, but that is what makes this exercise a success," General Fraser said. "Our goal in conducting Alaska Shield/Northern Edge was to practice and determine where to improve so if there ever is a terrorist attack or natural disaster in Alaska, the citizens of Alaska can be assured that local, state and federal government agencies will work seamlessly to save lives and protect the infrastructure of Alaska."

In addition to numerous local government and private agencies, several military members traveled to Alaska to help with the exercise. The total force effort included Guardsmen from Kulis Air National Guard Base, Alaska, and Soldiers from the Nebraska and Idaho National Guards. Airmen from Alaska's Eielson and Elmendorf Air Force Bases, and Soldiers from the state's Forts Richardson and Wainwright also participated.

"When we go to war, we go as one force -- Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Airmen and Coast Guardsmen" General Fraser said. "It's important for us to train together as one unified team. Each service brings something to the fight, whether it's at home or abroad, and the country is stronger for each of our talents." 

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