Updated at 7 p.m.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin met with military service members, elected officials and other stakeholders Saturday for briefings at Fort Wainwright Army Base and Eielson Air Force Base before departing for Asia.

“It's the secretary's second trip to what he has called the Defense Department's ‘priority region’ since taking office in January,” the Department of Defense noted in a news article Saturday.

"This is a very critical place on the globe," Austin said during a speech and remarks at Eielson Air Force Base. "It is the intersection of the areas of responsibility for a couple of combatant commands — the Indo-Pacific Command, which is really important to us, as well as the Northern command."

Austin’s Alaska visit underscored the Defense Department’s focus on the U.S. military presence in the Arctic region. 

"It truly is a place that ... will help us in our efforts to create capacity and capability that allows us to do what we set out to do in increasing the competitive edge with adversaries like China and Russia."

Sen. Dan Sullivan accompanied Austin during his Alaska visit. In an interview with the News-Miner Saturday, Sullivan said that the defense secretary had the opportunity to meet and talk with military members, tribal leaders, elective officials and business owners to "hear directly about Alaska."

"I love to say Alaska sells itself when it comes to the military," Sullivan said about the 90-minute meeting with community representatives. "It is really important for our leaders in uniform and our civilian leaders to come to our state to see firsthand its strategic location and capabilities."

In his speech at Eielson Air Force Base, Austin also emphasized the importance of America's global allies, describing U.S. military partnerships with other nations as "how we are going to fight going forward."

"It magnifies our capability and is something we are very proud of, and we will continue to develop our relationships with like-minded allies to ensure [there is] an international rules-based order. It is our strength that others don't have, and we enjoy those partnerships and alliances.

"The way we operate is that we train with each other and share common practices," Austin said.

On social media, the defense secretary noted his Alaska visit to military facilities, posting: "The Arctic is an extremely important region, both strategically and operationally, and our forces train and operate in brutally unforgiving climates to ensure our readiness. I was delighted to meet with our incredible service members at the Northern Arctic Training Center today," which is located at Black Rapids and managed at Fort Wainwright.

An article on the DoD website about Austin's visit to the state noted that, “Alaska is a cornerstone of America's defense in the Indo-Pacific. The state is home to some of DoD's most modern systems, including F-22 Raptors and F-35 Lightning IIs — fifth-generation aircraft that can dominate any battlespace.

"Alaska is also home to ground-based missile defense sites. These systems — manned by members of the Alaska National Guard — are key to America's defense from rogue states."

Said Austin: "We are proud of the people up here working here everyday to protect this nation and increase our competitive edge." 

After leaving Alaska, Austin departs for a multi-day trip to Asia with stops in Singapore, Vietnam and the Philippines.

Contact Linda F. Hersey at 907-459-7504 or follow her at twitter.com/FDNMpolitics.

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Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin arrived in Fairbanks Friday to meet with Alaska military leaders before traveling to the Indo-Pacific region.

“It's the secretary's second trip to what he has called the Defense Department's ‘priority region’ since taking office in January,” the Department of Defense reported in a news article published Saturday on the DoD website.

"I think it'll be a really good visit: you'll hear me talk a lot about partnerships and the value of partnerships," Austin said in the DoD article published Saturday. "We believe that we're a stabilizing force; no matter where we are, what part of the world, we add value to the stability of the region. So, my goal is to strengthen relationships."

Austin’s Alaska visit underscores the Defense Department’s focus on U.S. military presence in the Arctic region. 

According to the DoD article, headlined “Austin Begins Indo-Pacific Visit in Alaska”:

“Alaska is a cornerstone of America's defense in the Indo-Pacific. The state is home to some of DoD's most modern systems, including F-22 Raptors and F-35 Lightning IIs — fifth generation aircraft that can dominate any battlespace. Alaska is also home to ground-based missile defense sites. These systems — manned by members of the Alaska National Guard — are key to America's defense from rogue states.

“Soldiers based in Alaska are key to America's Arctic strategy and are integral forces for the Indo-Pacific.” 

After leaving Alaska, Austin's week-long trip will include stops in Singapore, Vietnam and the Philippines.

Contact Linda F. Hersey at 907-459-7575 or follow her at twitter.com/FDNMpolitics. This story will be updated.

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