ELMENDORE AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska When the son of a Garfield couple steps outside, inhaling crisp air on a base surrounded by mountains and pristine wilderness in America's "last frontier," he is far more likely to run into a bear or moose than an enemy of the United States.
But Air Force Airman Staff Sgt. James A. Kenney, son of Sid and Mel Kenney of E. U.S.
Hwy. 62, Garfield, and the rest of his colleagues, are strategically as close to North Korea as they are to Washington D.C.
Kenney recently participated in a massive American military exercise called "Northern Edge," where more than 9,000 U.S. service members sharpened their skills for responding to crises throughout the Asia-Pacific region.
Kenney is an F-22 integrated avionics technician with the 525th Aircraft Maintenance Unit at Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska.
"I am serving the U.S. Air Force by maintaining the F-22 avionics systems at Elmendorf.
I ensure that proper maintenance on our aircraft is being performed, and that our jets are airworthy 24 hours a day, seven days a week," said Kenney, a 1999 graduate of Rogers High School.
Military maneuvers over the Gulf of Alaska and areas of the Alaskan wilderness, in an area the size of New Mexico, allowed for aircraft to conduct maneuvers in ways that cannot be done anywhere else.
Air Force, Navy, Army, Ma
rine Corps and Coast Guard personnel participated with aircraft flying in simulated air combat, many times flying in excess of the speed of sound, a restriction found nearly everywhere else in the United States. Naval warships and land-based forces also synchronized with aircraft in creating a large combined force.
For Kenney, this important exercise provides an opportunity for his unit to better itself in combat situations and in working with other American military services.
"Training to be ready for any situation is a big part of what we do. Being prepared for anything will allow us to deploy anywhere, anytime, when called upon," said Kenney.
With Alaska situated between Russia and Canada, and within a good part of the Arctic Circle, the region provides a unique setting for both professional and personal experiences.
"Alaska is a beautiful place to work, and it prepares you to work in all weather conditions from 40 below zero to 80 degrees Fahrenheit," said Kenney.
Kenney's personal military background illustrates why his experience is ideal for military operations in Alaska, such as this one.
"I've been in the Air Force for six years. I plan to eventually retire from the Air Force as a master sergeant," said Kenney.
With the sounds of jet aircraft screaming overhead, wildlife such as moose and bears are undeterred from randomly appearing at this frontier base. But with vigilance found by service members serving in this geographically important location, their efforts will help keep the region's greater threats at bay.
School, Pages 7 on 07/29/2009