Warriors recruiting warriors: Alaska Outreach

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Monica Roybal
  • Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst Public Affairs

According to the National Indian Council on Aging, Inc., Indigenous people and Alaska Natives serve in the armed forces at five times the national average and have served with distinction in every major conflict for more than 200 years.

In an effort to foster diversity and inclusion within the Indigenous community, the 305th Air Mobility Wing’s Aviation Inspiration and Mentorship team steered Air Mobility Command’s Alaska Outreach event in Anchorage, Alaska, May 13-16. Total Force Airmen spanning various career specialties from Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, engaged with local students showcasing STEM opportunities, the Air Force mission and discussed overcoming barriers to military service.

The event supports AMC’s “Warriors Recruiting Warriors” initiative and marks a significant step in recognizing the unique skills and perspectives that Alaska Native communities can bring to the military.

“This collaboration between the 305th AMW, AMC and the Air National Guard is a key component of our recruiting initiative,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Irlanda Rodriguez, 305th AMW AIM program director. “As a first-generation female military aviator, I think it’s important for the armed forces to truly reflect our country’s demographic and work to include more diverse groups of people for different outlooks and ideas.”

While Airmen were engaging with students at three local high schools, Maj. Gen. Gary McCue, Air National Guard assistant to the commander of AMC, Col. Anthony L. Smith, 87th Air Base Wing commander, and Col. Elizabeth Hanson, 305th AMW commander, travelled north to the village of Kotzebue. They partnered with Indigenous Nations Equality Team leaders to make the trek to “the Gateway to the Arctic,” which acts a hub for rural villages that face adversity with healthcare access, education, food scarcity and transportation.

“Our visit to Kotzebue was unique as we were able to share our Air Force story with some of Alaska’s most remote villages,” Hanson said. “It was an honor to connect with the locals and hear their stories. It’s important that service members continue to build these relationships, show our appreciation to our Alaska Native veterans and inspire the next generation.”

Airmen assigned to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, joined the JB MDL and AMC crews to host a career exhibit for Alaska Military Youth Academy cadets and displayed detailed aspects about various Air Force specialties. This event created a culturally respectful and supportive environment for the potential recruits, ensuring their unique heritage is acknowledged and celebrated.

Despite the promise of the initiative, there are challenges to be addressed. Historical mistrust of federal institutions among some Alaska Native communities can pose obstacles to recruitment efforts. To overcome these challenges, the Air Force is committed to building lasting relationships and proving its dedication to the welfare and respect of Alaska Natives.

Senior leaders and Airmen also got the chance to break bread with Alaska Native veterans during the trip. This was an opportunity for the group to gain insight and discuss concerns that are seen in the local community. The direct exposure to an individual’s pre-and post-service experience yielded an abundance of understanding as well as a renewed appreciation for the community’s resilience.

Among the topics emphasized were the importance of diversity in maintaining a robust, adaptable force.

“Alaska Natives have lived and thrived in the Arctic for thousands of years, which brings with it a wealth of experience and knowledge,” Smith said. “Our goal is to create pathways for Alaska Natives to not only join the Air Force, but to flourish and lead. Their contributions are invaluable, and we are excited about our continued growth and partnership.”

As “Warriors Recruiting Warriors” events continue to occur nationwide, they will represent a bold move toward a more inclusive and diverse Air Force, one that values and integrates the rich cultural heritage and expertise of Alaska Natives in service to our nation.