Interview with Alaska SDF Commanding General Brigadier General (AK) Simon Brown II

We recently did an interview with the Commanding General of the Alaska State Defense Force, Brigadier General (AK) Simon Brown II. We covered a range of topics from his time in the US Military, the current missions the Alaska SDF is engaged in, Basic Training Standards, as well as the future of the force.

Interview with Alaska State Defense Force Commanding General, Brigadier General (AK) Simon Brown II

Can you tell us a little about you and your history in the military?

  • I am originally from South Carolina, and I grew up in a small farming community.
  • I joined the United States Air Forces in 1973. I serviced in the USAF until 1977, as a NAV-AIDS Technician.
  • After I discharged from the USAF, I joined the Alaska Army National Guard, as a Communication Specialist, at the rank of Sergeant.
  • During this time, I worked for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) as an electronic Technician. I worked for FAA until 1980.
  • In 1980 I joined the Alaska State Troopers, and worked throughout Alaska, and retired as Detachment Commander, Captain.
  • During my time with the FAA and Alaska State Troopers, I maintained my membership with the Alaska National Guard,
  • In October 1987. I attend Officer’s Candidate School (OCS) and became a Army Officer. I serviced a Patrol Leader, Platoon Leader, Company Commander, several Battalion level positions {Intelligence Officer, Operations Officer, Communications Officer, Executive Officer, and Battalion Commander. I served as a Brigade Operations Officer and as Chief of Operations for the Alaska Army National Guard.
  • I deployed to Kuwait/Iraq in 2006, as Battalion Executive Officer.
  • From 2008 to 2014 travel to and trained with the Mongolian Army.
  • I deployed to Afghanistan in 2011, to create and manage an advanced Police Academy for Afghanistan Police.
  • I deployed to Afghanistan in 2012, as an LNO with the Mongolian Army, as Base Security team.
  • I retired from the Alaska Army National Guard in November 2014, as a Lieutenant Colonel.
  • In 2015 I joined the Alaska State Defense Force (ASDF) as Assistance Operations Officer
  • From 2015 to 2019 I held the positions of Asst. Operations Officer, Battalion Commander, and Brigade Operations Officer.
  • In 2019 I was selected as the Brigade Commander for the ASDF, as Colonel
  • In 2021 I was promoted to the rank of Brigadier General, Commanding General of the ASDF.

What kind of missions is the Alaska State Defense Force up to these days?

  • The ASDF is a State of Alaska Military Force, under the control of the Governor, AS26.05
  • We train and prepare to respond to all natural and man-made disasters and emergencies, on the orders of the Governor.
  • The ASDF has trained personnel in 1) Administration, 2) Medical Detachment, 3) Cyber Detachment, 4) Domain Awareness, 5) Logistics, 6) HF Communications, 7) Finance, 8) Operations, and 9) PAO
  • We have used these capabilities to respond to local flooding, wildland fires, search and rescue, security services, and most recently to the COVID-19 Pandemic.
  • ASDF personnel use the skills and leadership abilities to volunteer in the local community to assist with emergency response planning, and to assist in local events, such as parade, school events, and other community activities

How big is the Alaska State Defense Force now?

  • The ASDF is currently at approximately180 members. In the early 2000s ASDF was over 400 members.

How are your recruiting efforts going?

  • We are revamping our recruitment effort. Currently, we are receiving 2 to 4 new applications each month.
  • We realized a significant number of Alaskans did not know about the ASDF or understood what they do.
  • We have a goal to have approximately 500 members by 2025

Do you bring in more Prior Service than Non-Prior Service members?

  • The ASDF is made up of approximately 58% prior service and 48% non-prior service.
  • ASDF attempts to maintain at least 50% prior services

For NON-Prior Service, do you have an Initial Entry Training / Basic Training program for such new recruits?

  • Yes, we have a program to give non-prior service recruits, very similar knowledge that an Army would recruit would obtain, except they do not leave the State and go to boot camp.
  • The recruit is mentored and trained one weekend each month

How long is your Initial Entry Training (Basic Training)?

  • The time it takes to complete the initial Training depends on the time and availability of the recruit and their mentor. However, we expect each member to complete within their first year.
  • Most recruits complete the task within 6-9 months.
  • Much of the training can only occur during drills, which is once a month

What do non-prior recruits learn during this training course?

  • The program includes online training, (with testing) and in-person mentor training.
  • New recruits learn Military, Army, and ASDF History
  • Military customs and protocols
  • Wearing and caring for the Uniform
  • Hundreds of individual and team task
  • Community interactions
  • Orienteering
  • Search and rescue
  • Communication techniques
  • Incident analysis and reporting
  • Incident Command System – level 100 & 200
  • Cold weather survival

In 2007 the Maryland Defense Force deployed with the MarylandAir National Guard on a mission to provide medical assistance in Bosnia. Has the Alaska State Defense Force ever deployed out of the country with its National Guard?

  • The ASDF deployed a section of its Communications Section to Puerto Rico to assist the DOD with providing communications across the Island.
  • This was the first time any SDF was deployed out of the county
  • It was a very successful and meaningful deployment

Has the Alaska State Defense Force ever deployed out of the country with its National Guard?

  • The Puerto Rico (Hurricane Maria) was a joint Alaska National Guard and Alaska State Defense Force Deployment
  • This was the only one (SO FAR)

Do you believe such joint missions with the Alaska State Defense Force assisting the National Guard in their overseas missions would be possible for the AKSDF?

  • Yes, the’re many missions and deployments the National Guard conduct each year, as part of the State Partnership agreement, around the world, that I believe the ASDF, and other SDF Units would bring added value and assets to the table.
  • The majority of the ASDF Members are professional and highly people, with vast amount experience in many fields, law enforcement, medical, logistics, communications, and responding to various kinds of emergencies

Out of 10, how many missions does the Alaska State Defense Force work hand in hand with the Alaska National Guard? Ie. 8 out of 10 missions we work with the Alaska National Guard

  • 10 out-of 10 – Every mission the ASDF deploy on involves the Alaska National Guard
  • Some missions, that involvement maybe just during the planning and preparation phase
  • Some mission dictates a joint effort, while others dictate just the ASDF will respond
  • Each planning phase considers; size of incident, availability of resources (people & equipment) distance, expected duration, and several other factors.

What specific missions do you work hand in hand with your states Army National Guard or Air National Guard?

  • ASDF works hand-in hand with the Alaska National Guard on every mission.
  • Such as floods, wildland fires, earthquakes, and large-scale medical emergencies

Regarding the Covid-19 Pandemic, was the Alaska State Defense Force activated? – – – – – – – What kind of missions were performed during this Covid-19 activation?

  • ASDF was activated extensively during 2020-2021 in response to COVID-19 Pandemic,
  • ASDF conducted numerous missions, such as providing information on state requirement, medical services for responders, testing sites, assisted with tracking and follow-up, logistics, security, and working with operations and planning

Does the Alaska State Defense Force perform missions in remote areas of Alaska?

  • ASDF have 20 detachments across Alaska, with 16 of them located in in rural communities, A significant amount of ASDF missions are conduct in rural areas of the State.

Do you communicate or coordinate with other State Defense Forces throughout the nation? For those less active State Defense Forces / State Guards, what recommendations do you have for them regarding having a better working relationship with their National Guard?

  • Yes, SDF Unit across the county communicate often, because we have similar missions and we recruit the similar types of people.
  • I believe it is common knowledge, the world is changing, and each state is face with increasing numbers of emergencies and disaster, and there is not enough National Guardsmen, not enough law enforcement or first responder, to adequately address the incidents. Therefore, it is imperative that state and community combine forces and develop a system to bring SDFs to the table and make them a key player
  • SDFs can increase their worth and visibility by presenting their capabilities and abilities to key players in the First Responder Community.

Do you believe the SDF / SG’s could assist the National Guard in overseas locations in support roles?

  • Yes, but very limited! Non-combat roles.
  • Working with partners in training and emergency planning and response to natural disasters

What are your thoughts about the State Defense Force Improvement legislation that is headed to Congress? main/2021/07/25/new-SDF-federal-legislation-being-proposed/

  • It is a good and necessary piece of legislation, because the SDFs are being used more and more to assist first responders. The disasters are growing (size and frequency). More citizens and property negatively affected each day.
  • The States and Nation are asking SDFs members to volunteer their energy and time to train and prepare for disaster, I think this is a small cost for the dedicated and professional responder they receive.

What are your long-term plans for the Alaska State Defense Force?

  • To continue building the ASDF and adding more detachments into smaller rural communities.
  • To integrate ASDF members in local communities’ disaster and emergency planning, responding, mitigation, and recovery process
  • One day to have a team in each Rural Community

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