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June 13, 2021

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One Day, Three Bills for Alaska’s Organized Militia

Passing a bill is a big deal in the legislature. It often seems like it should be easier than it is, but it’s a long (sometimes years-long) tedious, slow, painstaking process often made worse by partisan bickering. So it’s nice when everyone can agree on something, and when THREE bills are signed into law on the same day in the same place, it’s an event to notice. And it took place today at the American Legion Auxilliary Post #1 on Fireweed Lane in Anchorage.
I’ve done quite a bit of reporting on Alaska’s unorganized militias, and even wrote a book concerning one rather notorious one, but I’ve never talked about the organized one until now. Many don’t even realize we have one. The Alaska State Defense Force (ASDF) is a volunteer organization whose primary purpose is to augment and support the Alaska National Guard. Their soldiers are trained and equipped for various missions including communications, emergency management, logistical support, chaplaincy, medical, and shelter management. They meet once a month on the weekend for training, just like the National Guard. They even take part in international training exercises like the one they just did with the Canadian Rangers and the Colorado National Guard on the Alaska-Canada border in the dead of winter. Mind you, they did this voluntarily.

**Side note: I have it on good authority that the Canadian Rangers have Snickers bars in their MREs. I haven’t eaten many MREs but last time I did, our dessert was smashed “patriotic sugar cookies.” Step up your game US Army!

The ASDF is the successor of the Alaska Territorial Guard, which was made up of hardy souls and founded during World War II before Alaska had achieved statehood.

This undated file photo provided by Archives, University of Alaska, Fairbanks shows Alaska Territorial Guard members being sworn in in Barrow, Alaska. The largely Alaska Native guard was formed to protect Alaska during World War Two, but its members were formally recognized by the Army as U.S. military veterans just nine years ago. (AP Photo/Archives, University of Alaska, Fairbanks, File)

When statehood came in 1959, the Alaska Territorial Guard was disbanded and replaced by a state militia, made up mostly of former military personnel.
Most state defense forces in the U.S. do not carry firearms, and until recently the ASDF didn’t either. Former National Guard head Craig Campbell under then-governor Sarah Palin successfully pushed for the disarmament of ASDF back in 2008. But now once again members are trained and tested, and when proven proficient, they can carry arms.
Another recent development is the elimination of the shaving requirement. Yes that’s right, beards are allowed (and there was much rejoicing.)
Another from that joint training on the Canadian border.
The three bills that Governor Bill Walker signed today focus on providing the ASDF with workers’ compensation, pay and benefits, and bringing the militia into compliance with the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ).
The bills were spearheaded by the office of Chris Tuck (D-Anchorage) who is the Chair of the Military and Veterans Affairs committee in the House. He was there today with his Chief of Staff Kendra Kloster who had more than a little to do with ushering them through the process and getting them passed. Also present from the committee was Vice Chair Gabrielle LeDoux (R-Anchorage).
“These three bills represent our shared commitment to support the brave men and women who protect our great state by standing ready at a moments notice to step into the fray. For that they deserve respect and a Military Code that is fair and accommodates the sacrifices they make for every Alaskan,” said Rep. Tuck following the ceremony.

Rep. Chris Tuck, Governor Bill Walker, Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux, and members of the ASDF.

You can read the text of the bills here:
HB126, HB150, and  HB307
While these bills aren’t particularly exciting or dramatic as far as legislation goes, they were needed to affirm the intention of the administration to revamp and reform the ASDF, and to intensify recruitment, training, and support for the volunteers who step up to help in a crisis. The ASDF is also focusing on developing a stronger presence in rural Alaska.
For anyone interested in volunteering to help their country and communities in times of crisis, you can fill out an application for the ASDF HERE.
And congratulations to all for working together and getting it done!

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4 Responses to “One Day, Three Bills for Alaska’s Organized Militia”
  1. Hell, even WC was getting tired of nothing but birds…

  2. Norm Olson says:

    Thank you for making the distinction between the Organized and Unorganized militia. Making the distinction should require an explanation of what makes the difference and the reasons for the difference.

  3. Zyxomma says:

    Jeanne, it’s great to see you back here, and as always, great reporting. Love, health, and peace.

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