Fairbanks Daily News Miner: DoD implements free flight home program for service members in Alaska Haley Lehman

The Department of Defense has implemented a free flight home program for Alaska service members.

The program reimburses service members who are E-5 and below the cost of one flight to their home of record during a three-year tour in Alaska. The policy, effective immediately, covers soldiers from the 11th Airborne Division, the 1-25 Attack Battalion and the 1-52 General Support Aviation Battalion.

Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan introduced the Don Young Arctic Warrior Act in June 2022, with the goal of alleviating hardships faced by service members in Alaska. The National Defense Authorization Act was signed into law in December 2022 and included provisions for the Don Young Arctic Warrior Act.

Murkowski brought up the need for the program to military and government officials in April and May. She said she hopes the program makes a positive difference in the quality of life for service members.

“Service members stationed in Alaska face unique hardships, and the adjustment to living in our state can be a challenge for the men and women stationed there,” Murkowski said. “When the late Congressman Don Young, Congresswoman Jackie Speier, Senator Dan Sullivan, and I started writing the bill that would become the Don Young Arctic Warrior Act, our goal was to help alleviate the stress our service members face when being away from their families or loved ones.”

Maj. Gen. Brian Eifler, commanding general of the 11th Airborne Division said traveling to and from Alaska is expensive, “and with a flight home already accounted for, hopefully no soldier has to choose between seeing Alaska this summer, and seeing their family over the holidays.”

Airfare from service members traveling home is retroactively reimbursable from Dec. 23, 2022.

“Part of being successful in Alaska is being innovative and adaptive to the environment, and that includes the ways we take care of soldiers,” Eifler said.

“We enforced the policy early so they don’t have to wait to seize their chosen opportunity now.”

Sen. Sullivan said that ensuring Alaska’s service members and their families are cared for has always been one of his highest priorities. He said that the Don Young Warrior Act emerged after listening sessions at Fort Wainwright and Joint Base Elemendorf Richardson about special challenges faced in Alaska.

“I’m gratified that the Department of Defense is implementing the free flight program, which will allow all Alaska-based service members to visit home during their tour,” Sullivan said. “A few key changes can go a long way in improving the quality of life and mental health of servicemen and women stationed in Alaska.”

By:  Haley Lehman
Source: Fairbanks Daily News Miner