Alaska Command, Alaska
The Alaskan Command, reestablished 7 July 1989, as a subunified command under the Pacific Command, traces its origins to the Alaskan Command established on 1 January 1947, as a unified command under the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The 1947 establishment of the unified command was based on lessons learned during World War II when a lack of unity of command hampered operations to drive the Japanese from the western Aleutian Islands of Attu and Kiska. The Alaskan Command was responsible for the defense of Alaska and the surrounding waters. Its three service components were the Alaskan Air Command (AAC), United States Army, Alaska (USARAL) and the Navy's Alaskan Sea Frontier (ALSEAFRON). In recognition of the importance of air power to the defense of Alaska, the Commander-in-Chiefs, Alaskan Command were drawn from the ranks of the United States Air Force.
In addition to providing for the defense of Alaska, the Alaskan Command furnished humanitarian support during disasters; the most notable of which was the 1964 Good Friday Earthquake.
In response to post Vietnam military reductions and the need to reduce headquarters and headquarters manning, the ALSEAFRON was disestablished in 1971. Responsibility for the defense of the Aleutians was assigned to the Pacific Command, again creating a lack of unity of command for the defense of Alaska. In 1974, USARAL was disestablished and on 1 July 1975 so was the Alaskan Command. In its place, Joint Task Force-Alaska (JTF-AK) was created as a provisional command that could be activated by the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the event of war or disasters. The Commander, Alaskan Air Command, whose rank was upgraded to lieutenant general, became Commander, JTF-AK. In addition to being commander of the joint task force, he also served as Commander, Alaskan NORAD Region and as the senior military officer in the state.
However, there were inherent limitations with JTF-AK concept. Because of its provisional status, there was no permanent authorized full-time staff, which hampered planning and hindered the conduct of exercises. There was no Navy component, which limited the ability of the commander to carry out his joint defense responsibilities. Finally, the fact that the responsibility for the defense of the Aleutian Islands rested with another command created a fragmented and potentially harmful command relationship.
The problems were corrected with the activation of a new Alaskan Command in 1989. Its mission requires the planning and conducting joint training for rapid long range deployment missions under Pacific Command Joint Task Forces. Additionally, it supports federal and state authorities with disaster relief, provides for defense of Alaska against attacks and acts of terrorism, and supports counter narcotics operations. The three components, drawn from Army, Air Force and Coast Guard forces in Alaska and their augmentations are: U.S. Army Alaska, U.S. Air Force Forces Alaska and U.S. Navy Forces Alaska. Together they comprised over 45,000 men and women who serve as the "Guardians of the North."
Following the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks, the Joint Rear Area Coordination-Alaska (JRAC-AK) was established to handle Homeland Defense issues. With the establishment of the Northern Command, JRAC-AK was abolished and Joint Task Force-Alaska (JTF-AK) was activated in February 2003 in support of the Northern Command.