What others say: Good military news for Alaska’s interior

Confirmation of Army plans to place 24 AH-64 Apache helicopters at Fort Wainwright is another heartening sign that the military is serious about its Pacific-facing strategy. The Apaches, along with the F-16 Aggressor Squadron and two squadrons of F-35 fighter jets likely to be placed at Eielson Air Force Base, will greatly expand the role of the Interior in that strategy.

The placement of the Apaches is a win-win for the community and the military — the community will benefit economically and socially from the placement of additional troops in the area, while the military will be able to better utilize the expansive air training space the Interior offers.

The Army has yet to render a decision on basing for its Gray Eagle drones. The Interior is said to be in strong contention as a destination, but the panoply of assets already in place or on their way here means the Department of Defense needs to make sure that there’s room for additional units before making a commitment. As a community with strong military ties, that’s a good problem to have.

Interior soldiers showed their mettle last week at a statewide Army competition, with a pair of Fort Wainwright soldiers taking home top honors. Spc. Rahjee Hajj, of Fullerton, California, won the U.S. Army Alaska soldier of the year competition while Sgt. Cooper Hall, of White Springs, Florida, won the non-commissioned officer of the year competition.

The two will move on to regional competition in Hawaii and, if successful there, will compete at nationals in Virginia.

The wins are a coup for Interior troops and vindication of the caliber of soldiers based locally — good luck to Spc. Hajj and Sgt. Hall as they move on to the next level of competition.

— Fairbanks Daily News-Miner,

May 3

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