Anchorage Police Commit to Support Guardsmen, Reservists
By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service
ANCHORAGE, Alaska, Aug. 31, 2005 The Anchorage Police Department has put into writing its verbal commitment to the Guardsmen and Reservists who protect and serve the community when they're not protecting and serving the country.
Anchorage Police Chief Walter Monegan signed a "statement of support" under the National Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve's "5-Star Employer Program."
"All it (involved) was basically memorializing an existing (verbal) agreement," Monegan said about the statement of commitment he signed in April. "Members of the Guard and Reserve do double duty, and I respect that."
The document declares, in writing, that an employer will adhere to the tenets of the federal law regulating treatment of Guardsmen and Reservists. But it's more than just a statement to those military servicemembers who work for Monegan.
"I think it's tremendous (that Monegan signed the commitment)," said Douglas "Scott" Lofthouse, a senior patrol officer with the Anchorage Police Department and a master sergeant with the 3rd Security Forces Squadron of the Alaska Air National Guard. He explained that it solidifies the department's commitment to its servicemembers.
While guardsmen and reservists working for the municipality are entitled to benefits afforded to them by federal laws, medical and dental benefits provided by their employer for their eligible family members also are continued. This allows family members to keep their health care providers, Monegan said. He added that financial arrangements can be made to ease the shock of having to cover bills on military pay, which may be less than pay earned from the police force.
Both Lofthouse and Mark Karstetter, an Anchorage patrol officer and a technical sergeant with the 176th Maintenance Squadron of the Alaska Air National Guard, said the welcome home from the department after their recent deployments was "outstanding."
"I went right back in as a detective," Lofthouse said, referring to the position he left when he was activated in August 2002. "The department was great."
Karstetter agreed. He had been called up just after finishing field training for the police department. After a one-year deployment, he returned and found himself with someone riding along with him again, just to make sure his skills were still sharp. But he was put back into the position that he had vacated when he was activated. He said that this accommodation is something other employers should strive for.
"I would encourage employers to be flexible, because we're sending our youngest and brightest overseas to do a (dangerous) thing they don't always need or want to do, but they go because they're asked to," he said. "And with the current laws, I think it's a good thing that they can come home and start their lives over and still ... have a job, they have a routine."
Being first responders gives the police officers a unique perspective on the war on terrorism and, consequently, the activations of the Guard and Reserve required to fight it.
"I think I have a better understanding than most of the general public does about what it takes for the security of the nation and the security of your hometown," Karstetter said. "I've always been extremely patriotic, so getting called up is not something that I'm upset about."
He also said being a first responder makes being sent to a combat zone easier to deal with. When he came under rocket attack while deployed to Kandahar, Afghanistan, he said, it really didn't faze him.
"I think the police department helped me cope with certain things better than most (people)," Karstetter said. And that includes other servicemembers. He credits this unique readiness to having already encountered high-stress situations.
Karstetter and Lofthouse were honored Aug. 30 by the Anchorage Assembly during a special meeting. Each was presented with a certificate from the city, thanking them for their service to the police department as well as to the country.
The police officers were honored through a program the municipality instituted to honor the nearly 70 Guardsmen and Reservists in its ranks. An Alaska Army National Guardsman deployed to Iraq is expected to be the honoree at the next assembly meeting.
Monegan's commitment to support the servicemembers working for him, recognition of those servicemembers by the municipal assembly, and the benefits extended to them that exceed federal requirements are ways in which this city has chosen to support the Guard and Reserve. Monegan said he thinks this is a reflection of America's attitude toward its servicemembers, as well.
"Because of Sept. 11, I think the spirit of the country is, 'We support you,'" Monegan said.