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Alaskan Command (ALCOM) is a subunified command of U.S. Pacific Command (USPACOM) responsible for maximizing theater force readiness for Alaskan servicemembers and expediting worldwide contingency force deployments from and through Alaska as directed by the Commander, USPACOM.
ALCOM is headquartered at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Anchorage, Alaska. The command is made up of the following military forces:
· 11th Air Force, headquartered at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson AFB
· U.S. Army Alaska, headquartered at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Anchorage, Alaska
ALCOM combined forces include more than 20,000 Air Force, Army, Navy and Marine personnel, and 4,700 Guardsmen and Reservists.
ALCOM traces its origins to the Alaskan Command established on January 1, 1947, as a unified command under the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS). The command was founded based on lessons learned during World War II, when a lack of unity of command hampered operations to drive the Japanese from the western Aleutian Islands of Attu and Kiska.
Its three service components were the Alaskan Air Command (AAC), United States Army, Alaska (USARAL) and the Navy's Alaskan Sea Frontier (ALSEAFRON). In recognition of the importance of air power to the defense of Alaska, ALCOM commanders were drawn from the ranks of the United States Air Force.
ALCOM, and its components, were charged with the defense of Alaska and its surrounding waters, and with humanitarian support during disasters, such as the 1964 earthquake.
The Alaskan Sea Frontier was inactivated in 1971 as part of post-Vietnam military manning reductions. Responsibility for the defense of the Aleutian Islands was transferred to USPACOM, again creating a lack of unity of command for Alaskan defense. USARAL was inactivated in 1974, and ALCOM followed suit in 1975.
The problem of disjointed command was highlighted in Fortress Gale 87, the first exercise in the Aleutians since World War II. FORCES COMMAND (I Corps - Fort Lewis, Wash.) was responsible for land defense, USPACOM for sea defense, and Alaskan NORAD Region (ANR) for air defense. The lack of unity of command was highlighted in the JCS Remedial Action Plan and corrected in July 1989 with the activation of a new Alaskan Command as a sub-unified command under USPACOM. ALCOM was given responsibility for the land and maritime defense of Alaska as well as all air missions not assigned to ANR, such as air rescue and other civil support.
Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and the establishment of the U.S. Northern Command (USNORTHCOM), responsibility for the land and maritime defense of Alaska and consequence management were transferred from USPACOM to Commander, USNORTHCOM. Joint Task Force-Alaska (JTF-AK) was established in February 2003 to conduct USNORTHCOM responsibilities in Alaska (less maritime defense). Most military forces in Alaska remain under USPACOM and ALCOM retains responsibility for coordinating all military activities in Alaska, and planning and conducting joint training for rapid long-range deployment missions under USPACOM. Through a Command Authorities Agreement between the commanders of USNORTHCOM and USPACOM, ALCOM was also given responsibility to man and execute the JTF-AK mission.
While the responsibility for defense of Alaska is now divided between NORAD, USPACOM and USNORTHCOM, the Commander ALCOM provides unity of command for U.S. and Canadian forces and all of these missions in Alaska through the designation as Commander ANR and JTF-AK.
FORCES IN ALASKA
11th Air Force
The 11th Air Force (11 AF) provides forces to maintain air superiority in Alaska and support Alaska-based ground forces, and combat-ready air forces for employment by combatant commanders to preserve the national sovereignty of the United States and defend U.S. interests overseas.
The largest subordinate units in 11 AF are the 673rd Air Base Wing and 3rd Wing at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson and the 354th Fighter Wing at Eielson AFB, near Fairbanks, Alaska.
The 673rd ABW provides support services for more than 34,000 personnel and family members on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. The 3rd WG operates the E-3B Sentry, C-17 Globemaster III, F-22A Raptor and C-12F Huron aircraft. The wing provides air supremacy, surveillance, worldwide airlift, and agile combat support forces to project global power and global reach.
The 354th Fighter Wing provides world class training ranges and aggressor support, combat ready forces for world-wide deployments and facilities for incoming forces capable of reaching anywhere in the Northern Hemisphere at a moment's notice. The 354 FW operates
F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft, and prepares joint and allied Combat Air Force's aircrew for tomorrow's victories through challenging, realistic threat replication, training, test support, academics, and feedback.
The 611th Air and Space Operations Center (611 AOC) provides personnel and resources to conduct the ANR mission of maintaining air sovereignty over North America and also supports JTF-AK's missions.
Remote locations of 11 AF are operated by the Pacific Air Forces Regional Support Center, formally known as the 611th Air Support Group, at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. Those locations include: King Salmon Divert SIte, Eareckson Air Station on Shemya Island, and a network of 16 Air Force radar sites throughout Alaska.
The PACAF Regional Support Center provides surveillance radars, arctic infrastructure, communications and worldwide-deployable support for homeland defense, decisive force projection, and aerospace command and control. The PACAF Regional Support Center is also responsible for mid-Pacific sites in support of 13th Air Force at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii. These sites include Wake Island Airfield; Kokee Air Force Station on the Island of Kauai; the Air Force Activity at the Bradshaw Training Area on the Island of Hawaii; and Wheeler Army Airfield Air Force Annex and Ka'ala Air Force Station on the Island of Oahu.
When mobilized, the state's Air National Guard becomes an integral part of Pacific Air Forces and ALCOM. The Alaska Air National Guard (AKANG) maintains KC-135 Stratotanker, C-130 and HC-130 Hercules aircraft and HH-60 Pave Hawk combat search and rescue helicopters.
U.S. ARMY ALASKA
U.S. Army Alaska (USARAK), a subordinate element of U.S. Army Pacific (USARPAC), is headquartered at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska. The organization, commanded by a major general, provides USARPAC with focused, early entry battle command capability and acts as the Joint Force Land Component Commander for homeland defense and civil support in Alaska. USARAK's mission is to be prepared to deploy rapidly in the Pacific theater and elsewhere in support of contingency operations, USPACOM objectives and U.S. national interests.
Alaska is home to two infantry brigade combat teams, a combat aviation brigade, a maneuver enhancement brigade, and Reserve Component units. The 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division is headquartered at Fort Wainwright, near Fairbanks, Alaska, along with 16th Combat Aviation Brigade, the Northern Warfare Training Center, and U.S. Army Garrison Fort Wainwright. Headquartered at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson are the 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th ID, the 3rd Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, the Sgt. 1st Class Christopher R. Brevard Noncommissioned Officer's Academy, and U.S. Army Garrison Fort Richardson. Tenant organizations include the DoD Missile Defense Agency (Fort Greely) and the USA Medical Department Activity-Alaska, USA Dental Activity-Alaska, 59th Signal Battalion, and the Bureau of Land Management. The Reserve component units located throughout the state include a National Guard infantry group (Scout) consisting of three infantry battalions, a support battalion, an aviation battalion, an Army Reserve engineer battalion and a reserve hospital.
MILITARY IMPORTANCE OF ALASKA
Alaska lies across the great circle routes connecting the Asian-Pacific theater with Europe and North America, making it an ideal refueling location for aircraft using polar or near-polar routes. Military installations in Alaska are much closer to Asia and Europe than many in the contiguous United States, providing a staging location for a rapid military response capability.
Alaska's mineral wealth is considerable. The state provides 25 percent of U.S. oil production and an estimated 30 percent of U.S. oil reserves lie in Alaska. Commercial fisheries in the state provide more than 50 percent of the U.S. harvest and nearly 65 percent of U.S. zinc production comes from Alaska. Large amounts of natural gas, coal, iron, gold, tin, platinum and copper are also prevalent throughout the state.
Alaska offers a unique environment for military training. The state is home to some of the largest airspace ranges in the world and more than 1.5 million acres of maneuver areas. Premier combat airpower exercises are conducted throughout the year and all military services train with an emphasis on perfecting joint warfighting doctrine and tactics.
In recent years, an accelerating disappearance of multi-year ice in the Arctic Ocean has highlighted the implications of increased human activity in the region. The United States is an Arctic nation solely because of the state of Alaska, giving the nation a compelling interest in the possibility of increased shipping traffic and natural resource potential in the region. Homeland Defense and Civil Support missions are becoming increasingly important concerns for national policy due to increased activity in the region, and ALCOM, through it's JTF-AK responsibility, continues to play a critical role in executing these missions.