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Alaska Guard sets good example

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Posted: Friday, September 7, 2012 12:00 am

Genghis Khan, the revered and feared 13th century emperor of the Mongol empire, once said, “the merit of the action lies in finishing it to the end.” As Khan Quest 2012 marked its end Aug. 23, there was tremendous merit in the work done to strengthen the relationship and security of the United States, Mongolia and other international forces in the Pacific region.

For the first time, I had the opportunity to see this exercise up close during a visit with American troops and Mongolian officials near that nation’s capital, Ulaanbaatar. It was a tremendous demonstration of both international cooperation and local pride, with about 80 members of Alaska’s National Guard joining 1,000 soldiers from 10 countries in an exercise designed to strengthen military cooperation and regional peacekeeping.

As so often happens when I meet with the men and women who make up our Army, I was struck by the tremendous professionalism, commitment and ability of our soldiers.

Pfc. Chantal Miller serves as a medic with the Alaska Army National Guard’s Medical Detachment and helped set up a medical clinic in a Mongolian elementary school as part of a humanitarian outreach effort. Staff Sgt. Joshua Clark, a medical readiness non-commissioned officer in the 1st Battalion, 207th Aviation Regiment, controlled the ebb and flow of the clinic as some 300 people waited their turn to be seen by a medical provider. Pediatric specialists, such as Capt. Tori Schmidt, physician assistant, 297th Battlefield Surveillance Brigade, provided not only treatment but also kindness and support.

Theirs are but a few of the many stories I learned while witnessing the various aspects of the Khan Quest 12 exercise.

I was reminded, too, that military service is not only a proud tradition but also often is a family affair, as I recalled after meeting Command Sgt. Maj. Clinton Brown his daughter, Sgt. Michelle Brown. While Michelle’s brother, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Clinton K. Brown III, wasn’t with them in Mongolia, he had recently returned from a deployment to Iraq.

These members of the Alaska National Guard are just a few of the 1.1 million soldiers deployed in more than 80 countries across the globe. Their missions are varied and complex, and each is a vital part of ensuring the safety and security of our great nation.

Military and humanitarian exercises with our allies foster greater understanding, cooperation, and readiness — contributing to peace, stability and security across the world and here at home.

This exercise was a reminder, too, of the importance of the Asia-Pacific region to our national security interests and of the Army’s role in that part of the world. In fact, 10 of the world’s largest armies are located in the Pacific region, and 22 of 27 nations in the area have an army officer as their chief of defense.

After World War II, Gen. Douglas MacArthur steadfastly argued for closer ties between the United States and our Pacific neighbors, arguing that such partnerships “would be an invincible defense against aggression.”

Our work in Mongolia with America’s allies, and the contributions of Alaska’s Army National Guard, are testament to the vital, important role the Army has in building and fostering those relationships and strengthening our national interests in that part of the world.

John McHugh, of Washington, D.C., is secretary of the U.S. Army.

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