HomeMediaArticle Display

Alaska National Guard assists Commissary in serving rural Alaska

JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- The Alaska National Guard transports cargo for the Defense Commissary Agency from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson via a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft from the 176th Wing’s 144th Airlift Squadron to the remote village hub of Bethel, Alaska, Aug. 2, 2021. The AKNG partnered with DeCA in order to provide discounted groceries to eligible military- and DoD-affiliated patrons during a one-day event Aug. 7. (U.S. Army National Guard photos by 1st Lt. Balinda O’Neal Dresel)

JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- The Alaska National Guard transports cargo for the Defense Commissary Agency from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson via a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft from the 176th Wing’s 144th Airlift Squadron to the remote village hub of Bethel, Alaska, Aug. 2, 2021. The AKNG partnered with DeCA in order to provide discounted groceries to eligible military- and DoD-affiliated patrons during a one-day event Aug. 7. (U.S. Army National Guard photos by 1st Lt. Balinda O’Neal Dresel)

JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- The Alaska National Guard transports cargo for the Defense Commissary Agency from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson via a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft from the 176th Wing’s 144th Airlift Squadron to the remote village hub of Bethel, Alaska, Aug. 2, 2021. The AKNG partnered with DeCA in order to provide discounted groceries to eligible military- and DoD-affiliated patrons during a one-day event Aug. 7. (U.S. Army National Guard photos by 1st Lt. Balinda O’Neal Dresel)

JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- The Alaska National Guard transports cargo for the Defense Commissary Agency from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson via a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft from the 176th Wing’s 144th Airlift Squadron to the remote village hub of Bethel, Alaska, Aug. 2, 2021. The AKNG partnered with DeCA in order to provide discounted groceries to eligible military- and DoD-affiliated patrons during a one-day event Aug. 7. (U.S. Army National Guard photos by 1st Lt. Balinda O’Neal Dresel)

JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Alaska Air National Guard Senior Master Sgt. Tristan Maxwell, 144th Airlift Squadron loadmaster, and Staff Sgt. Brock Shope (driving), 176th Logistics Readiness Squadron transportation craftsman, load cargo for the Defense Commissary Agency from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson via a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft from the 176th Wing’s 144th Airlift Squadron to the remote village hub of Bethel, Alaska, Aug. 2, 2021. The AKNG partnered with DeCA in order to provide discounted groceries to eligible military- and DoD-affiliated patrons during a one-day event Aug. 7. (U.S. Army National Guard photos by 1st Lt. Balinda O’Neal Dresel)

JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Alaska Air National Guard Senior Master Sgt. Tristan Maxwell, 144th Airlift Squadron loadmaster, and Staff Sgt. Brock Shope (driving), 176th Logistics Readiness Squadron transportation craftsman, load cargo for the Defense Commissary Agency from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson via a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft from the 176th Wing’s 144th Airlift Squadron to the remote village hub of Bethel, Alaska, Aug. 2, 2021. The AKNG partnered with DeCA in order to provide discounted groceries to eligible military- and DoD-affiliated patrons during a one-day event Aug. 7. (U.S. Army National Guard photos by 1st Lt. Balinda O’Neal Dresel)

JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- The Alaska National Guard transports cargo for the Defense Commissary Agency from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson via a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft from the 176th Wing’s 144th Airlift Squadron to the remote village hub of Bethel, Alaska, Aug. 2, 2021. The AKNG partnered with DeCA in order to provide discounted groceries to eligible military- and DoD-affiliated patrons during a one-day event Aug. 7. (U.S. Army National Guard photos by 1st Lt. Balinda O’Neal Dresel)

JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- The Alaska National Guard transports cargo for the Defense Commissary Agency from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson via a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft from the 176th Wing’s 144th Airlift Squadron to the remote village hub of Bethel, Alaska, Aug. 2, 2021. The AKNG partnered with DeCA in order to provide discounted groceries to eligible military- and DoD-affiliated patrons during a one-day event Aug. 7. (U.S. Army National Guard photos by 1st Lt. Balinda O’Neal Dresel)

JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Andrea Johnson and son, Greyson, shop during a Commissary sale Aug. 7, 2021, at the Alaska Army National Guard Aviation Facility, Bethel, Alaska. An Alaska Air National Guard C-17 Globemaster III moved tons of groceries and supplies from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson to Bethel to offer the goods to eligible residents at discount prices. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by David Bedard/Released)

JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Andrea Johnson and son, Greyson, shop during a Commissary sale Aug. 7, 2021, at the Alaska Army National Guard Aviation Facility, Bethel, Alaska. An Alaska Air National Guard C-17 Globemaster III moved tons of groceries and supplies from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson to Bethel to offer the goods to eligible residents at discount prices. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by David Bedard/Released)

JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Alaska Army National Guard Spc. Aaron Olson, wife, Andrea, and son, Greyson, meet with Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve representative Don Black during a Commissary sale Aug. 7, 2021, at the Alaska Army National Guard Aviation Facility, Bethel, Alaska. An Alaska Air National Guard C-17 Globemaster III moved tons of groceries and supplies from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson to Bethel to offer the goods to eligible residents at discount prices. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by David Bedard/Released)

JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Alaska Army National Guard Spc. Aaron Olson, wife, Andrea, and son, Greyson, meet with Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve representative Don Black during a Commissary sale Aug. 7, 2021, at the Alaska Army National Guard Aviation Facility, Bethel, Alaska. An Alaska Air National Guard C-17 Globemaster III moved tons of groceries and supplies from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson to Bethel to offer the goods to eligible residents at discount prices. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by David Bedard/Released)

JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Cheryl Bault, Anchorage Area Commissary store associate, rings up groceries for retired Alaska Army National Guard Sgt. 1st Class Harry Alexi during a Commissary sale Aug. 7, 2021, at the Alaska Army National Guard Aviation Facility, Bethel, Alaska. An Alaska Air National Guard C-17 Globemaster III moved tons of groceries and supplies from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson to Bethel to offer the goods to eligible residents at discount prices. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by David Bedard/Released)

JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Cheryl Bault, Anchorage Area Commissary store associate, rings up groceries for retired Alaska Army National Guard Sgt. 1st Class Harry Alexi during a Commissary sale Aug. 7, 2021, at the Alaska Army National Guard Aviation Facility, Bethel, Alaska. An Alaska Air National Guard C-17 Globemaster III moved tons of groceries and supplies from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson to Bethel to offer the goods to eligible residents at discount prices. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by David Bedard/Released)

JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Command Sgt. Maj. James Nyquist, state command sergeant major for the Alaska Army National Guard, arranges Alaska USO care packages before a Commissary sale Aug. 7, 2021, at the Alaska Army National Guard Aviation Facility, Bethel, Alaska. An Alaska Air National Guard C-17 Globemaster III moved tons of groceries and supplies from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson to Bethel to offer the goods to eligible residents at discount prices. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by David Bedard/Released)

JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Command Sgt. Maj. James Nyquist, state command sergeant major for the Alaska Army National Guard, arranges Alaska USO care packages before a Commissary sale Aug. 7, 2021, at the Alaska Army National Guard Aviation Facility, Bethel, Alaska. An Alaska Air National Guard C-17 Globemaster III moved tons of groceries and supplies from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson to Bethel to offer the goods to eligible residents at discount prices. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by David Bedard/Released)

JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Dwight Brown, Anchorage Area Commissary store manager, rings up a customer's cart during a Commissary sale Aug. 7, 2021, at the Alaska Army National Guard Aviation Facility, Bethel, Alaska. An Alaska Air National Guard C-17 Globemaster III moved tons of groceries and supplies from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson to Bethel to offer the goods to eligible residents at discount prices. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by David Bedard/Released)

JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Dwight Brown, Anchorage Area Commissary store manager, rings up a customer's cart during a Commissary sale Aug. 7, 2021, at the Alaska Army National Guard Aviation Facility, Bethel, Alaska. An Alaska Air National Guard C-17 Globemaster III moved tons of groceries and supplies from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson to Bethel to offer the goods to eligible residents at discount prices. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by David Bedard/Released)

JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Sharon Alexi, wife of retired Alaska Army National Guard Sgt. 1st Class Harry Alexi, arranges her shopping cart during a Commissary sale Aug. 7, 2021, at the Alaska Army National Guard Aviation Facility, Bethel, Alaska. An Alaska Air National Guard C-17 Globemaster III moved tons of groceries and supplies from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson to Bethel to offer the goods to eligible residents at discount prices. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by David Bedard/Released)
PHOTO DETAILS  /   DOWNLOAD HI-RES 10 of 12

JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Sharon Alexi, wife of retired Alaska Army National Guard Sgt. 1st Class Harry Alexi, arranges her shopping cart during a Commissary sale Aug. 7, 2021, at the Alaska Army National Guard Aviation Facility, Bethel, Alaska. An Alaska Air National Guard C-17 Globemaster III moved tons of groceries and supplies from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson to Bethel to offer the goods to eligible residents at discount prices. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by David Bedard/Released)

JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Retired Alaska Army National Guard Sgt. 1st Class Harry Alexi arranges his shopping cart during a Commissary sale Aug. 7, 2021, at the Alaska Army National Guard Aviation Facility, Bethel, Alaska. An Alaska Air National Guard C-17 Globemaster III moved tons of groceries and supplies from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson to Bethel to offer the goods to eligible residents at discount prices. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by David Bedard/Released)
PHOTO DETAILS  /   DOWNLOAD HI-RES 11 of 12

JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Retired Alaska Army National Guard Sgt. 1st Class Harry Alexi arranges his shopping cart during a Commissary sale Aug. 7, 2021, at the Alaska Army National Guard Aviation Facility, Bethel, Alaska. An Alaska Air National Guard C-17 Globemaster III moved tons of groceries and supplies from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson to Bethel to offer the goods to eligible residents at discount prices. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by David Bedard/Released)

JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Charlie Jones, Anchorage Area Commissary store associate, tags inventory before a Commissary sale Aug. 7, 2021, at the Alaska Army National Guard Aviation Facility, Bethel, Alaska. An Alaska Air National Guard C-17 Globemaster III moved tons of groceries and supplies from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson to Bethel to offer the goods to eligible residents at discount prices. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by David Bedard/Released)
PHOTO DETAILS  /   DOWNLOAD HI-RES 12 of 12

JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Charlie Jones, Anchorage Area Commissary store associate, tags inventory before a Commissary sale Aug. 7, 2021, at the Alaska Army National Guard Aviation Facility, Bethel, Alaska. An Alaska Air National Guard C-17 Globemaster III moved tons of groceries and supplies from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson to Bethel to offer the goods to eligible residents at discount prices. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by David Bedard/Released)

JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska --

Retired Army National Guard Sgt. 1st Class Harry Alexi pushed a gray industrial-grade platform shopping cart at the Bethel Alaska Army National Guard Aviation Facility. He needed the cart’s capacity to load up with bags of flour, boxes of cereal, cases of mac and cheese – all at prices a fraction of what could be purchased locally.

The discounts were possible because the Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA), at the request of the Alaska National Guard, provided discounted groceries to eligible military- and Department of Defense-affiliated patrons during a one-day event Aug. 7 in the remote village hub of Bethel. Several days prior to the event, tons of high-demand goods were transported via a C-17 Globemaster III of the Alaska Air National Guard’s 144th Airlift Squadron from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson to the small community on the coast of Western Alaska along the Kuskokwim River.

Commissary grocery shopping is an earned benefit that is accessible to those near or able to drive to a military installation. Alaska is one-fifth the size of the continental U.S., and travel to most village communities is not accessible via road travel. Alaskan retirees, for example, in these remote locations are not able to readily use their Commissary shopping benefits, and this is a challenge DeCA and the Alaska National Guard are working to address.

Alaska Air National Guard Maj. Gen. Torrence Saxe, commissioner for the Alaska Department of Military and Veterans Affairs and adjutant general of the Alaska National Guard, initiated the Commissary event as a way to show current and former service members in rural Alaska communities that the Guard wants to help them access their earned benefits.

“This has absolutely been a group effort, and we are very excited that we were able to successfully accomplish this mission,” Saxe said. “The purpose really is to be able to provide discounted groceries to eligible military patrons. People, from recruitment through retirement years, are our greatest resource and we need to show them through our actions that we value and appreciate them.”

Command Chief Master Sgt. Winfield Hinkley, Alaska National Guard senior enlisted leader reinforced the importance of the event.

“Due to the uniqueness and geographical isolation in Alaska, it can be challenging for eligible personnel to get access to the benefits that they have earned through service to their country,” he said. “We are proud to partner with DeCA to help realize their goal of providing Commissary benefits to all eligible patrons.”

Octavia Thompson, the Alaska National Guard’s Warrior and Family Services program director, said the effort was the continuation and reestablishment of DeCA and Alaska National Guard outreach to rural Alaska.

“It’s probably been a good 10 years since we have been able to come out to Bethel to provide this resource to our eligible patrons,” she said. “Considering the last year that we’ve had, this has been a great way to support the community because a lot of our eligible patrons haven’t been able to come into Anchorage to go shopping at Elmendorf or even at Fort Wainwright up in Fairbanks.”

On Aug. 2, Staff Sgt. Merick Ahlberg, 144th AS loadmaster, was responsible for loading the dozens of pallets of groceries and supplies into the cavernous cargo hold of the C-17 and working with material-handling equipment on the Bethel end to disgorge the freight.

Hinkley said the operation was similar to what could happen if the National Guard had to assist state and local agencies during an emergency.

“There is a very real possibility that during a disaster we could be called upon to provide food to a local community,” he said. “This training mission is two-fold as it affords us the opportunity to demonstrate our capabilities while supporting the local community.”

Representatives from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Rural Health Programs; State of Alaska’s Office of Veterans Affairs; USO Alaska; Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve; and Alaska National Guard’s Warrior and Family Services and Retirement Services, and volunteers from the Alaska State Defense Force offered staff on site to support and provide information for attendees.

Dwight Brown, store director of the Anchorage Area Commissary, travelled to Bethel with a squad of Commissary employees to serve eligible customers. As a member of the small team responsible for the logistically complex sale, Brown leveraged his years of retail experience, personally fulfilling roles from stock clerk to customer-service representative throughout the operation.

“Getting the benefit to remote locations, that means the world to me,” he said. “Ultimately, I feel proud. I think everything is falling in line, and now I just want to see the smiles on customers’ faces.”

Once the doors of the aviation facility opened, residents poured in, flashing veterans IDs or clutching DD 214 separation paperwork to prove eligibility.

As a hub city, Bethel is the logistics and retail focal point for the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, a region that, at 75,000 square miles, is larger than the Mississippi River Delta. There are no highways connecting Bethel to the rest of Alaska, so contact with the outside world is by air, while contact with the outlying villages is by snowmachine in the winter and river boats in the summer.

After the initial surge of customers hailing primarily from Bethel and immediate outlying areas made their early morning purchases, customers streamed in from other villages using boats to traverse the veins of the YK Delta’s smaller rivers before fording the Kuskokwim to make their way to Bethel.

Hinkley said the successful operation demonstrated the Alaska National Guard’s commitment to the state’s military community.

“This mission is another way to demonstrate our commitment to take care of our members, families and retirees from recruitment through retirement,” he said.

USAF Comments Policy
If you wish to comment, use the text box below. AF reserves the right to modify this policy at any time.

This is a moderated forum. That means all comments will be reviewed before posting. In addition, we expect that participants will treat each other, as well as our agency and our employees, with respect. We will not post comments that contain abusive or vulgar language, spam, hate speech, personal attacks, violate EEO policy, are offensive to other or similar content. We will not post comments that are spam, are clearly "off topic", promote services or products, infringe copyright protected material, or contain any links that don't contribute to the discussion. Comments that make unsupported accusations will also not be posted. The AF and the AF alone will make a determination as to which comments will be posted. Any references to commercial entities, products, services, or other non-governmental organizations or individuals that remain on the site are provided solely for the information of individuals using this page. These references are not intended to reflect the opinion of the AF, DoD, the United States, or its officers or employees concerning the significance, priority, or importance to be given the referenced entity, product, service, or organization. Such references are not an official or personal endorsement of any product, person, or service, and may not be quoted or reproduced for the purpose of stating or implying AF endorsement or approval of any product, person, or service.

Any comments that report criminal activity including: suicidal behaviour or sexual assault will be reported to appropriate authorities including OSI. This forum is not:

  • This forum is not to be used to report criminal activity. If you have information for law enforcement, please contact OSI or your local police agency.
  • Do not submit unsolicited proposals, or other business ideas or inquiries to this forum. This site is not to be used for contracting or commercial business.
  • This forum may not be used for the submission of any claim, demand, informal or formal complaint, or any other form of legal and/or administrative notice or process, or for the exhaustion of any legal and/or administrative remedy.

AF does not guarantee or warrant that any information posted by individuals on this forum is correct, and disclaims any liability for any loss or damage resulting from reliance on any such information. AF may not be able to verify, does not warrant or guarantee, and assumes no liability for anything posted on this website by any other person. AF does not endorse, support or otherwise promote any private or commercial entity or the information, products or services contained on those websites that may be reached through links on our website.

Members of the media are asked to send questions to the public affairs through their normal channels and to refrain from submitting questions here as comments. Reporter questions will not be posted. We recognize that the Web is a 24/7 medium, and your comments are welcome at any time. However, given the need to manage federal resources, moderating and posting of comments will occur during regular business hours Monday through Friday. Comments submitted after hours or on weekends will be read and posted as early as possible; in most cases, this means the next business day.

For the benefit of robust discussion, we ask that comments remain "on-topic." This means that comments will be posted only as it relates to the topic that is being discussed within the blog post. The views expressed on the site by non-federal commentators do not necessarily reflect the official views of the AF or the Federal Government.

To protect your own privacy and the privacy of others, please do not include personally identifiable information, such as name, Social Security number, DoD ID number, OSI Case number, phone numbers or email addresses in the body of your comment. If you do voluntarily include personally identifiable information in your comment, such as your name, that comment may or may not be posted on the page. If your comment is posted, your name will not be redacted or removed. In no circumstances will comments be posted that contain Social Security numbers, DoD ID numbers, OSI case numbers, addresses, email address or phone numbers. The default for the posting of comments is "anonymous", but if you opt not to, any information, including your login name, may be displayed on our site.

Thank you for taking the time to read this comment policy. We encourage your participation in our discussion and look forward to an active exchange of ideas.