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Army chief says military presence is safe in Alaska

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Posted: Thursday, May 17, 2012 12:04 am

FAIRBANKS — The U.S. Army’s presence in Alaska is safe, according to a top Army leader who met with U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski on Wednesday.

U.S. Army Chief of Staff General Raymond T. Odierno signaled the Army will maintain its forces in Alaska during a half-hour meeting to discuss the state’s role amid cuts throughout the armed services.

According to a press release from Murkowski’s office, Odierno said the Army will continue to sustain two brigades — one at Fort Wainwright and one at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. He said Alaska’s unique climate and training grounds, along with its proximity to Asia, give the state an advantage over other bases.

It’s good news for state and local leaders, who have had little good news in the fight against a U.S. Air Force decision to relocate Eielson Air Force Base’s F-16 squadron to Anchorage.

The move of the comparatively smaller military unit has caused plenty of concern over its impact on the Interior economy, which relies largely on the two bases.

Odierno was enthusiastic about Fort Wainwright, which has plenty of room for training operations with the new Tanana River Bridge spur and offers tough winter-time training opportunities. He also added that “Alaska is closer to the Pacific than most of our posts ... it gives us an advantage.”

Odierno also said he will put together an “Alaska Future” team to work with Alaska on a roadmap for the state.

He commended the Fairbanks community for its recent strong turnout for the Salute To Our Military Parade held on Saturday.

“I can’t tell you what it means that the community would sacrifice to make such an event happen” he told Murkowski.

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