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Immediate Release

Deputy Secretary of Defense Dr. Kathleen Hicks Visits Eielson Air Force Base and Fort Wainwright

Attributable to Pentagon Spokesman Eric Pahon: 

Yesterday in Alaska, Deputy Secretary of Defense Dr. Kathleen Hicks visited Eielson Air Force Base and Fort Wainwright to meet with servicemembers, commanders, and visit support facilities on both bases to gain a deeper understanding of the unique quality-of-life needs of related to Arctic service. She also received operational updates and learned more about Arctic research currently underway. 

At Fort Wainwright, Deputy Secretary expressed her condolences for the three soldiers killed when two AH-64 Apache helicopters based at Fort Wainwright crashed last month. 

Today's visits comprised the first day of the Deputy Secretary's two-day travel schedule to installations in Alaska to ensure the Department of Defense is continuing to advance Secretary Austin's Taking Care of People priority.

At both installations, Deputy Secretary Hicks conducted round tables and touch points with enlisted soldiers and officers from junior through senior ranks to discuss how the Department's policy improvements are impacting the lives of servicemembers. 

She also visited commissary and dining facilities; housing and barracks; childcare facilities; recreational facilities; and military treatment facilities to see where Department policy is helping to address quality of life issues and where more focus and resources may be required.   

The Deputy Secretary also discussed important issues like suicide and access to behavioral and mental health to gauge whether community-based health approaches and resources are reaching servicemembers in need. 

In meetings with senior leaders, she also discussed accessibility for mental health care, including telehealth options which can drastically reduce wait times, and encouraged leaders to use all available resources to address issues like suicide and mental health. 

Throughout the visit, Deputy Secretary Hicks highlighted several improvements under Secretary Austin's "Taking Care of People" initiative designed to help address issues critical to force and family stability, including a 2023 4.6% pay raise – the largest in two decades; expanded parental leave for service members; enhancing employment opportunities for military spouses, establishing a Primary Prevention Workforce with a community-based health approach, increasing childcare subsidies, and offering hiring incentives to entice more childcare providers to seek employment at a local Child Development Center (CDC).  

Following the stops at Eielson AFB and Fort Wainwright, Deputy Secretary Hicks visited U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC) Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory and Permafrost Tunnel Research Facility to gain an understanding of the impact of permafrost thaw on sustainability of infrastructure, construction, and environmental conditions affecting operations in the Arctic.