Military force provides comforting presence

The 3rd Wing at Elmendorf Air Force Base has not yet received a deployment order. But their bags are packed.

Our military is on a higher state of alert. First Lt. Johnny Rea, official spokesperson for the 3rd Wing at EAFB, said they're primed to depart.

“As professional military members and warriors, we are always ready to go,” he said in an e-mail interview.

Rea says there are many people within the 3rd Wing who are on mobility status, which means they must have their gear ready for a departure every moment. He says his wing has had a few individuals who have been assigned to support deployments worldwide.

When asked to comment on the current security measures on base, Rea explained that he couldn't discuss specific force-protection measures for the security of military personnel and their families. He assured that the defense of the military base and its citizens take precedence.

“We are taking the appropriate measures to protect our people and our base so that we can continue to carry out our mission,” he said.

Rea says the general feeling of those he has talked to is one of shock since the Sept. 11 attacks, but also a sense of readiness.

- Advertisement -

“We also understand that we must be ready at a moment's notice when the president, our commander in chief, calls on us,” he said.

A few weeks ago the 3rd Wing was put through an official inspection testing their wartime capability. They received an overall excellent rating of their preparedness, Rea said.

“We are indeed combat ready,” he said.

The military's state of alert has altered the lives of its residents since the terrorist strike that took thousands of lives.

Kimberly Perrenot, who lives on Fort Richardson Army Post, is reminded of this disruption every day. She said she is more worried because loved ones, like her boyfriend, could be sent off to be a part of the effort to fight terrorism.

“It could be immediate,” Perrenot said. “I always knew they trained for war. I never thought something could happen.”

Perrenot, a University of Alaska Anchorage journalism major, spent the morning of Sept. 11 trying to track down friends in North Carolina whose fathers worked at the Pentagon.

“If I hadn't heard from them, I wouldn't have gone to class,” she said.

With initial fears subsiding, Perrenot says she's still reminded every day of this national crisis. She sees it when she goes home, and she deals with it when she goes to work.

“There is a lot more security,” she said.

The gate restrictions on Fort Richardson can cause you to have your car searched, says Perrenot. She should know. She had her car inspected more than 12 times. They also check identification more frequently. Perrenot shows hers when entering the gate, in the parking lot of her job and again to enter the building. She works at the Fort Richardson lodging office, which is the temporary living for family's awaiting housing on post, as a reservation clerk.

Perrenot says the armed forces are taking the proper measures for force protection.

“They are doing their job,” she said. “If they let just anybody on, then I would be worried about it.”

After having her car searched a dozen times, Perrenot has a sense of security, not annoyance.

“Because it is not normal right now, there's still a threat,” she said.

Senior airman Kristi Kendall got a phone call from her sister the morning of the attacks and then went immediately to Fort Richardson to report for work at the public affairs office. She did not make it to class at UAA that day.

“When the crisis began, it was my first week on the job,” Kendall said.

The public affairs office where she works deals with the media, government agencies and the general public. She works on Web pages, takes photos, videotape and provides broadcast editing support for various military departments. She spent Sept. 11 answering questions to the best of her knowledge on the telephone and assisted with the State Emergency Coordination Center.

“Our office handled many calls from the media, both local and national,” she said.

She said she also monitored the television, radio and Internet for information and assisted in providing rumor control.

Kendall is a UAA broadcast major hoping to graduate next year. She has been in the Army National Guard since 1999 as a broadcast journalist. She was in the Alaska Air Guard in 1992 and 1993.

She has been working increased hours and said she will continue for the next three months.

Kendall said her daily life has returned to normal for the most part.

“Now I am much more aware and ready to respond,” she said.

Since the terrorist attack, Kendall says her ability to do her job has improved dramatically.