Anchorage Rallies Against Potential Troop Cuts As Walker Meets with Head of Army

George Vakalis (left), Zachariah Hughes (top), Bill Popp (bottom) and Lt. Col. Allen Brown (right) discuss potential troop draw-down in Alaska. (Photo by Josh Edge, APRN - Anchorage)
George Vakalis (left), Bill Popp (bottom) and Lt. Col. Allen Brown (right) discuss potential troop draw-down in Alaska. (Photo by Josh Edge, APRN – Anchorage)

City and business leaders are holding a rally in Anchorage today to deter military cuts in Alaska.

As part of a nation-wide draw-down in the Armed Forces, officials from the Army and Defense Department are visiting Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson ahead of public listening session. As many as 5,300 soldiers from the 4th Combat Brigade stationed at Fort Richardson could be cut, pulling another 8,900 dependents out of the Anchorage area.

Officials with the city have worked aggressively to coordinate a message showing the important role the military plays in Anchorage and Alaska. Mayor Dan Sullivan’s administration brought business and community leaders together last month to plan today’s tour and presentations for visiting officials.

“We thought it’d be a good idea to incorporate all the different sectors, and make sure we can put forward a best-case scenario that lets this committee know the value not only of the military to Anchorage, but what we offer in terms of being a strategic location for training,” Sullivan said last month after a press conference.

The city contracted with events-planning company Arts Services North to plan presentations ahead of a 5pm rally at the Dena’ina Center downtown just before the listening session at 6pm.

The next day officials head to Fairbanks to assess potential cuts of up to 5,800 troops from the 1st Stryker Brigade at Fort Wainwright. Leaders in both Alaska cities are emphasizing that the two bases function in tandem, with infrastructure close to JBER helping supply and equip the large training grounds used in the Interior.

As the military shrinks the size of its fighting force by 80,000 troops by 2017 the Defense Department is holding listening sessions in 30 communities across the country. A second round of cuts by 2018 will trim another 40,000 positions.

Earlier today, Governor Bill Walker and newly selected Alaska National Guard Adjutant General Laurie Hummel met with the head of the Army, General Ray Odierno, at the Pentagon to explain the role of the Armed Forces in Alaska, according to a release from the Governor’s Office.

A decision on the reductions is expected in June.

Alaska has the highest per capita rate of military veterans in the nation, most of whom live in Southcentral and the Interior.