By Air Force Maj. Guy Hayes
Alaska National Guard
CAMP DENALI, Alaska (4/11/11) - Thousands of miles from the snow and tundra in Western Alaska, an Alaska Army National Guardsman proudly serves his state and country as an “Arctic Cowboy” on a year-long deployment in Iraq.
Army Sgt. Phillip Peter, a crew chief for B. Co., 1-207th Aviation, has been a member of the Alaska Army National Guard since October 2007 and is on his first deployment to Iraq from Bethel.
An important city in Western Alaska, Bethel is only accessed by sea or air, and serves as a hub for 56 villages in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta. It also lies within the largest wildlife refuge in the nation, the 20 million-acre Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge.
Peter, like many in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, enjoys living in Bethel for its subsistence lifestyle and proud Yupik Eskimo history. He also enjoys serving in the National Guard and the opportunities to see more of Alaska and the world.
“I joined the Guard because I wanted to travel outside of my hometown, so I could serve and experience new things,” Peter said. “My grandfather was also a member of the Alaska Territorial Guard.”
Since August 2010, Peter, along with 76 other Alaska National Guard members, has been away from his home in support of Operation New Dawn, and he’s proud he made that choice.
“I am proud to be in the Alaska National Guard,” Peter said. “There’s always something new going on, and I’m learning a lot everyday here in Iraq.”
As a crew chief and mechanic for the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter, Peter has enjoyed the opportunity to fly everyday in Iraq and has been on a few unique missions, including one with Vice President Joe Biden.
“We are involved in many important missions and I was involved with flying the vice president around Iraq to meet Soldiers,” Peter said. “It has been very rewarding.”
Rewards have also come in his job performance and learning more about the Soldiers he works with everyday.
“It’s a lot different than Bethel that’s for sure” said Peter. “But I’d say this experience has improved my ability to do my job, and I’ve gotten to know the guys in my unit a lot better.”
It’s not without sacrifices. Peter was married in July 2010, only weeks before leaving Bethel.
“I get to talk to my family every day, either through Skype or e-mail,” Peter said. “They’re doing good, but I look forward to seeing them again soon.”
The Alaska Army National Guard’s B. Co. 1-207th Aviation “Arctic Cowboys” are scheduled to return to Alaska this summer.