FORT GREELY, Alaska – The U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command’s senior leader visited Fort Greely, Jan. 31-Feb. 1, to engage with the 49th Missile Defense Battalion and garrison Soldiers, civilians, and families on vital quality-of-life issues at the remote outpost.
As the USASMDC commanding general, Lt. Gen. Daniel L. Karbler made his third official visit to the small enclave some 90 miles southeast of Fairbanks where he spent most of his time engaging with garrison and 49th Missile Defense Battalion leadership on the enormous effort it takes to maintain both garrison and missile defense operations while enduring arctic conditions for nearly half of the year.
“Everywhere I went, I saw great quality of life, great spirit, enthusiasm and teamwork in an environment that can range from 85 degrees and 21 hours of daylight in the summer to -50 degrees and three hours of sun each day in the depths of winter,” Karbler said. “A ‘snow day’ at most installations is pretty much just a regular day from October through April for the ‘Rugged Professionals’ here at Fort Greely.”
Karbler is no stranger to the region – he first visited Fort Greely in 1985 as a West Point cadet attending Northern Warfare School, and he has visited a number of times as the commander of the Army Test and Evaluation Command. But to gain understanding of the quality of life for those living at Fort Greely, he attended a garrison Installation Planning board meeting and participated in a team building activity at the installation’s Community Activity Center. He also recognized the garrison’s Department of Public Works staff, chiefly the snow removal team, for their outstanding performance.
“Quality of life initiatives here are similar to many remote Army posts: housing, schools, medical, commissary, MWR, etc., but Fort Greely’s harsh and long-lasting winters put an extra strain on the team here,” Karbler said. “Keeping the roads clear for safe travel and access to secure sites on post is a monumental task. They make it look easy, but it takes a lot to make that happen. The 87 inches of snow that’s fallen thus far this year didn’t move itself.”
Karbler’s focus shifted to the command’s 49th Missile Defense Battalion during his second day. Already familiar with the ground-based midcourse defense operations of the battalion, he talked with the Soldiers about how they perform their missile defense and security missions in the depths of the Alaskan winter.
“How do you maintain a vehicle fleet in these harsh conditions? How do you keep weapons functioning at -50 when standard lubricants jell and cause malfunctions? How do they keep each other safe working outside in the sub-zero conditions in Alaska?” asked Karbler. “Alpha Company MP Soldiers of the 49th know all too well how to combat these conditions. The fact that these are Alaska National Guard Soldiers, some of whom have served at Fort Greely for more than a decade, mean that they are able to pass that knowledge down to the new Soldiers when they arrive as well as the MPs activated from Mississippi National Guard who are there to augment them on the Missile Defense Complex.”
Karbler talked with Soldiers about improvements the Army and garrison have made since the base was reactivated during a Base Realignment and Closure in the early 2000s such as new recreation facilities, schools, and medical care, and about a number of other issues foremost on their mind.
During a trip to the local high school, Karbler saw firsthand the educational success of the Soldiers’ children and how they fit into the community.
“I want to extend a special thanks to the Delta Junction High School principal, Michael Lee, and staff for inviting me to see how the 68 children of our Soldiers and Department of the Army civilians are treated and integrated into the community at their school,” Karbler said.
After the school tour, Karbler talked with several juniors and seniors about his own Army career and family life while offering information about the numerous possibilities the Army offers. While the students were familiar with the more well-known Army branches, such as combat arms, Karbler emphasized that the Army offers more than 200 different careers in fields such as science, technology, engineering and mathematics; medical; and space operations.
Also during his second day, Karbler toured the installation’s Missile Assembly Building where representatives from the Missile Defense Agency briefed him on the latest generation of Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicles for the GMD System.
Karbler completed his visit with 49th Missile Defense Battalion missile crews and MPs at the installation’s missile defense complex, awarding coins for excellence.
“I am immensely proud of the work everyone’s doing from the garrison workforce who keep the roads clear and facility doors open, to the 49th Missile Defense Battalion staff, missile crews, and MPs. A special shout-out to the Mississippi National Guard Soldiers who put their own lives on hold to augment the MPs for this vital national defense mission,” he said. “I’m proud of the sense of community and teamwork on display everywhere I went. Everyone I met was enthusiastic about what they were doing; they were incredibly friendly and professional. Thank you.”