KOTZEBUE, Alaska --
The first time Brig. Gen. Roger R. Machut, the commanding general of 4th Marine Logistics Group, came to Alaska’s Arctic Circle was in 1996 to support the Innovative Readiness Training program, Arctic Care, where he helped reconstruct an airstrip in Noorvik, Alaska.
This time, Machut returned here to visit service members participating in the same exercise, IRT Arctic Care 2013. During his brief visit, April 14-15, he spent time with the Marines and other uniformed personnel providing medical, dental and veterinary aid to 12 rural villages in Alaska, some as far as 150 miles from Kotzebue.
“Part of what I always want to do is see my Marines and sailors in the field doing what they are trained to do,” said Machut. “This is one of the great opportunities to see especially our sailors of medical and dental professions providing the services that are in need.”
He said he noticed many similarities between the two programs, especially the logistical challenges. Much of the equipment brought in was transported via air, as most villages are unreachable due to frozen waterways and nonexistent roads.
Machut also said the wide variety of talent brought from the different supporting units presented another challenge. More than 200 service members from Marine Forces Reserve, the National Guard, Army Reserve, Navy Reserve and Air Force Reserve are taking part in the 19th annual exercise.
“Instead of just engaging in one village, now we are going to 12 villages and it is more complex as we spread our services and training across a larger area of the Arctic borough,” he said.
As the leading service in the exercise, Marines are able to experience real-life training, planning and deployment of logistics similar to the wartime mission of 4th MLG, he said. Arctic Care will improve the capabilities of all the participating U.S. forces in peacetime support operations, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.
“Arctic Care 2013 is much more joint now than it used to be,” he said. “With help from the Army doctors and veterinarians, and the support we receive from the National Guard as well as the other services, it is really the way we fight today.”
Machut said there are not many exercises that not only allow training with a variety of services, but at the same time allow service members to directly contribute to the civilian community.
The continual request by the Northwest Arctic Borough demonstrates to Machut that the program is making a difference in the locals’ lives. After visiting the service members, he said he could see it in their eyes; they know their hard work contributes to their fellow American citizens.
“I would like to see all the service members here gaining the appreciation of the unique Native American cultures that only exist in the state of Alaska,” said Machut. “This helps them to see that they can really make a difference
, not just in the two weeks of the exercise, but a difference that will last well beyond the time we are here.”