Alaska National Guard Infantrymen return from Kosovo

April 4, 2020 JBER, Alaska: The state of Alaska will welcome back more than 150 Soldiers from the Army National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 297th Infantry Regiment, returning from deployment on Saturday, April 4.

The 297th IN BN Soldiers were deployed to the country of Kosovo for a NATO peacekeeping mission and were out of the country for nearly nine months.

The Soldiers have recently demobilized from deployment and for the last 14 days, the 297th IN BN has been quarantined on U.S. Army base Ft. Bliss located in El Paso, Texas amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The Soldiers have followed all federally mandated COVID-19 health and safety precautions during their travels and time spent in Texas.

After returning to Anchorage on Saturday, local Soldiers will be released to their families and places of residence to begin an additional 14 days of self quarantine per state mandate. Soldiers returning to rural Alaska communities will be quarantined in barracks on JBER and depart the following day.

Ten Soldiers will be flown to Bethel, a coastal, western Alaskan rural hub on Sunday, Apr. 5 via an Alaska Air National Guard HC-130 Combat King II aircraft from the 211th Rescue Squadron. An Army Guard UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter with the 1st Battalion, 207th Aviation Regiment, will then fly the Soldiers to their home villages of Aniak, Chevak, Kasigluk, Kwigillingok, and Tuluksak.

Soldiers arriving in the rural areas will follow the same 14-day quarantine protocol to mitigate their risk of contracting COVID-19.

Guardsmen in Alaska, assigned at JBER, Eielson AFB, Clear AFS, Ft. Greely, Ft. Wainwright and rural areas are following all state and local mandates and advisories, ensuring social distancing and contacting their medical provider if they or a family member has symptoms. The health and safety of Guardsmen and their communities is of highest priority, as a healthy force is there to provide assistance when called. Currently, many full-time Guardsmen are teleworking, and base access work is limited to mission critical and mission essential personnel.

YK Delta Alaska National Guardsmen disembark from their aircraft on Sunday, April 5th, 2020 in Bethel on their way back home from their deployment in Kosovo.
Photo by Rachel Sallafie