Alaska Army National Guard in Kenai opened their doors on Saturday, inviting the community for a first-hand experience to give a better understanding the role of the National Guard’s citizen soldiers in their local community.
The demonstration day is a first of its kind according to Sergeant Patrick Arnold, a career counselor with the National Guard.
“It’s a day to show that we’re actually within the community, that we’re actually here,” Sgt. Arnold said. “This is new for us. I’ve been a recruiter for about seven years and have always wanted to do it.”
From noon to 4 p.m. on Saturday, the Kenai Armory was set up with several stations, allowing anyone hands on insight into what the National Guard offers and their capabilities.
Inside, visitors could see a selection of uniforms and gear and talk with different troops about their life as a National Guard troop. There were also weapons display, which allowed visitors to safely handle the weapons.
Specialist Trent Buning was manning the small unit support vehicle (SUSV), an all terrain vehicle, and taking passengers on a ride through the muddy field nearby the building.
“It can pretty much go anywhere,” Buning said. “Everyone seems to enjoy going for a ride. It’s really nice to bring the community together and show them what we do.”
Crystal Fann decided to bring her family to the center after talking to a few National Guards earlier in the day, and she was glad she did.
“My son is 13 and he just loves everything about it,” Fann said. “He’s gotten to try some of the guns and go for a ride on the SUSV.”
Fann also brought her daughter, Nicole, who said she enjoyed the day despite being uneasy at first.
“It’s definitely something,” Nicole said. “It’s interesting, scary too. The ride in the (SUSV) was pretty bumpy and scary, but it was cool overall.”
The Alaska National Guard is a group that pride themselves on being citizens and soldiers, Sgt. Arnold said. In addition to demonstrating equipment, he said Saturday was about showing the community that the Guard Soldiers are also citizens within their community.
The National Guard is a primary reserve military force with dual status, partly maintained by the states but available for federal use as well.
“It’s unique to the National Guard. We’re authorized to work for the people,” Sgt. Arnold said. “We work in the local area in case of fires, floods or any natural disaster. If something were to happen in the area, we would be the one to assist the local community.”
Reach Kat Sorensen at firstname.lastname@example.org