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Monday, June 05, 2006 

Shipping Alaska's Indigenous to Iraq

For the first time since World War II, Alaska's Guard reserve troops in tiny Yup'ik Eskimos villages are being called up according to the Los Angles Times. There is only one problem, the Yup'ik community is very worry about losing their men to go serve in BushCo’s war. The Yup'ik still depend upon subsistence fishing, hunting and gathering for food and it is the male who are tasked for this role. According to the Times, the Reservists are being called up during Alaska's "breakup," when the long days melt the snow and ice that have blanketed the tundra for more than half the year. It is during this time when the men prepare themselves for the hunting, fishing and seal-catching to survive throughout the winter months.

Some will argue they it is too bad since they signed up to serve in the National Guard, but living in that region the average income is considered the lowest in the nation, therefore signing up for the National Guard is an important source of cash. However, why would the Defense Department want to call them up when they have traditionally called up troops from Alaska's cities and towns which are served by a road system stretching from Anchorage to Fairbanks. The Yup'ik villages are located in the marshy delta part of the state, it is even so remote there are only two ways to get there — by airplane or snowmobile. And this can be done only a third from May to September.

During the Cold War, the Yup'ik unit avoided duty because of the US-Soviet tensions that existed during that time, in fact, most of the Alaskan unit avoided being called up because they were already positioned in case of an attack. They served as America's front-line defense if the Soviet Union ever planned to attack the US through Alaska. Now in a post Cold War era, according to the Times the Yup'ik unit:
... have avoided duty in places such as Kosovo, or the Middle East in the 1991 Persian Gulf War, because they were the most distantly located and expensive to activate. Those factors have played into the Alaskan units' late entry into Iraq, when Guard units from densely populated Eastern states have seen multiple tours.
One has to wonder why are they being called up now, if the current plans are to phase out the National Guard in Iraq by next year? There are currently 23,000 National Guard troops in Iraq compared to the 50,000 from last year. So why now?

Another question, how will the military get the Yup’ik ready for the extreme heat of Iraq knowing they have lived in a state where temperatures can plummet to minus 60 degrees. Even now, current soldiers are having a difficult time keeping up in Iraq's 120+ degree weather.
The effects of the heat can be felt and seen everywhere in eastern Diyala Province. An N.C. National Guard soldier manning a .50-caliber machine gun through the roof of a Humvee outside a hospital in Tuz Kharmatu can't leave his post, but his water bottle is close by as sweat drips down his face. At Forward Operating Base Caldwell, a 100-yard walk results in a T-shirt drenched in sweat. At Forward Operating Base Roughrider, the metal on the Humvee is so hot that the drivers must wear gloves.
Not that anyone enjoys the furnacelike temperatures. Patrolling the streets and roads of Iraq while the temperature hovers around 100 degrees daily isn't the image that comes to mind when the N.C. National Guard is mentioned. The protective equipment that soldiers wear makes the effects of the heat worse ... It is recommended a person doing normal activity drink eight to 10 glasses of water daily. But with the heat, the soldiers in Iraq are drinking as much as four or five gallons a day.
With a large majority of young adult males being called up, the Yup'ik community are now forced to figure out a way to make up for their shortage of men while trying to maintain an adequate food supply to survive the winter months until the next Alaska "breakup."

Another bright idea by BushCo.


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  • From Tejas, United States
  • Un Xicano who is tired of the current status quo.
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