Lt. Col. Knight: JBER not going anywhere

Despite budget hurdles, joint base’s future secure


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United States Air Force Lt. Col. Dan Knight speaks to the Chugiak-Eagle River Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday, Dec. 7. Knight, who serves as the deputy commander of the 673rd Mission Support Group, spoke to the chamber about what potential budget cuts will mean to the future of Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson and the importance of forging strong relationships between JBER and the surrounding communities.

STAR PHOTO BY MATT TUNSETH

Air Force Lt. Col. Dan Knight has worked all around the world — from Colorado Springs to Afghanistan, Germany to Korea — but he told the Chugiak-Eagle River community that there’s something special about the bond between Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson and the surrounding communities.

“I think the Anchorage Bowl is the gold standard,” Knight told the chamber during speech on Dec. 7 at the Bear Mountain Grill in Eagle River.

Knight is the deputy commander of the 673rd Mission Support Group, which is comprised of nearly 2,000 military and civilian personnel in four squadrons. The group’s primary focus in recent weeks has been helping the Army’s 3,500-member 4/25th Airborne Combat Brigade with its ongoing deployment to Afghanistan.

“It’s really been a team effort to prepare for that,” Knight said.

Cooperation has been the name of the game at JBER since Fort Richardson and Elmendorf Air Force Base merged into a single joint base in 2010.

The joint basing was intended to cut costs, and Knight said that is has. But further cuts to the Department of Defense — perhaps as much as $1 trillion over the next five years — are still expected as the nation grapples with soaring budget deficits.

“We do look to have additional cuts coming,” Knight said.

Earlier this winter, 250 civilian positions on base were cut. Knight said he expects more cuts are likely, and will affect support services on base — possibly things like outdoor recreation for troops and after-school programs for their kids.

“There’s some serious budget challenges,” he said.

However, Knight also said “the sky isn’t falling,” and that because of the strategic importance of the base, JBER will remain a crucial part of the nation’s defense.

“JBER is not going anywhere and the large number of forces you see at JBER aren’t going anywhere,” he said.

Knight said because of Alaska’s location, military personnel from the base can be anywhere in the world in a matter of hours. And because of climate change, it’s likely the base’s northern location will become even more important in coming years.

“The Arctic is increasing in importance or at least increasing in focus,” he said.

Knight said members of the Eagle River community who want to continue supporting the base and its mission can get involved by simply “continue doing what you’re doing,” which is offering strong support and encouragement to the troops stationed there. He also told the chamber that there’s a program in the works that will allow civilian community members to “adopt” families of deployed servicemen and women while they’re overseas.

“We’re kind of all in this together,” he said.

 

Contact Matt Tunseth at 694-2727 or matt.tunseth@alaskastar.com

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