The Association of Defense Communities’ Alaska Defense Forum (ADF) wrapped up late last week where state-wide defense community stakeholders and leaders gathered to learn new strategies to build strong military-community partners and rally new defense community champions at the state and local level.
The two-day event, held Oct. 3-4 in Fairbanks, focused on Alaska’s growing role in the North America’s defense and building the capabilities for successful regional military operations through deliberate engagement and coordination between DOD, Alaska communities, the state and industry.
Alaska’s is home to more than 17,000 military service members and their families, and the inaugural ADF event, co-hosted by Fairbanks North Star Borough, drew in excess of 200 attendees.
“The eye of U.S. national security is focused on the Arctic and Alaska,” Bryce Ward, Fairbanks North Star Borough mayor told ADC.
“With that attention we have significant opportunities,” he added. “However, to effectively leverage those opportunities we have to work collaboratively. We hope this forum encourages greater partnerships between defense communities, the military and state leadership in order to build strong Alaska defense communities.”
Other event speakers included Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R), Alaska Rep. Geran Tarr (D-17), and Frederico Bartels of the Heritage Foundation as the forum also focused on educating statewide defense community stakeholders on the policy and budget issues impacting the state’s military installations.
Feature sessions included:

  • Arctic & U.S. National Security
  • Mission Resiliency: The Role of Defense Communities
  • Enhancing a State’s Military Economy
  • Installation Resiliency: Energy, Utilities, & Infrastructure
  • Meeting Market Expectations for Military Housing in the Arctic
  • Quality of Life for Military Families

The Mission Resiliency/Defense Communities session featured Mayor Ward, ADC Board member Keith Klaehn, and Col. Christopher Ruga, U.S. Army Garrison Alaska commander.
The panel shared insights and experiences with issues such as housing, health care needs, community planning, and resiliency. They also emphasized the separation of families from friends and families in the lower 48, and the stress on families in Alaska while their soldiers and airmen are deployed.
“Those are opportunities for us to put our arms around the family members and use the community to make them feel included, to relieve the stressors of daily lives when you go from a two-parent household to a one-parent household all of a sudden,” Ruga told attendees.
Photo credit: ADC