Connect with:
Sunday, April 21, 2019
HomePolitics and PolicyA lifetime that prepared him for this role

A lifetime that prepared him for this role

(6-minute read) TORRENCE SAXE TAKES REINS AT ALASKA NATIONAL GUARD, DMVA

Torrence Saxe, Alaska’s commissioner of the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, has spent a lifetime in military service that started at age 18, when he first enlisted in the Army Reserves.

Overnight, he went from carrying a book bag at Eastern Washington State University to carrying a M-16. Deployed shortly after he joined, he participated in the first Gulf War — Desert Shield and Desert Storm.

As a medic in a unit that was primarily in charge of prisoners of war, he saw a lot of casualties, both from enemy combatants and American soldiers.

“War is a terrible thing,” he said during an interview last week. “And I want to make sure my men and women are prepared for it.”

“Be ready for war,” Saxe is known to advise his staff. “Because war is ready for you.” It’s a philosophy he picked up not only from reading The Art of War by Sun Tsu, but also from personal experience.

Returning home from the war zone, Saxe finished college and then, getting a discharge from the Army, attended officer school, and joined the Air Force.

Born to a family that were apple and pear orchardists in Eastern Washington since the 1800s, Saxe was the kid who left the orchard for a military career that took him far and wide across the globe. He’s quiet and conducts himself professionally. And in 30 years, he has never had a break in his military service.

MONTANA / COLORADO YEARS

Saxe’s first job in the Air Force was as a nuclear operations officer, working underground in missile silos in Montana. Should the president ever decide to launch a nuclear missile, he and his colleagues were the ones with their hands on the switch.

From there, he was assigned to Clear Air Force Base, his first trip to Alaska in 1999. There, he became chief of training and standardization at the radar station that detects incoming ICBM and submarine-launched missiles.

Then it was to England for him, and a space surveillance unit that was becoming a detachment. Saxe became the commander of that detachment.

Returning to Colorado, he was assigned to Peterson Air Force Base as an executive officer and then a staff officer in charge of the personnel department.

Saxe then joined the National Guard and returned to Clear Air Force Base in 2004, ultimately becoming the commander for the 213th space warning squadron.

Uniquely, he is the only person who has ever been the base commander as a guardsman.

He stayed eight years at Clear AFB before attending War College at Maxwell Air Force Base.

By 2013, he was headed to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson and the 176th maintenance group, as commander.

Prior to his current position, Saxe was the commander of the 168th Wing at Eielson AFB.

KC-135R Stratotanker is towed into a hangar at JBER, part of the 168th Wing at Eielson Air Force Base, upon its return from a mission in Southeast Asia.

Saxe is the only person in the Air Guard who has been a commander at all three Alaska bases.

In addition to his professional life, he is married and is a father of six children.

Just two weeks ago, he was surprised to be named commissioner Alaska’s Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, including becoming adjutant general of the Alaska National Guard.

Saxe will appear before the Senate Affairs Committee on Thursday in the Butrovich Room 205 at 3:30 pm for his confirmation interview.

FOCUSING ON DISASTER RESPONSE

While the Alaska National Guard needs to maintain focus on the federal mission, Saxe said he also wants to emphasize the Guard’s role for disaster response, such as after the Southcentral earthquake on Nov. 30. He sees there’s room for the Guard to better prepare to help communities.

He also wants to empower his workforce so he can grow new leadership for the future. This he feels he can accomplish by pushing authority downward through the ranks, and helping people with their personal development.

“We’re building up the bench of leaders,” he said, adding that “Team Alaska” is his theme. And that includes rural Alaska, and communities off the road system, such as his planned trips to Bethel and Galena.

Recently, he put a recruiter in Juneau for the Air Guard. That was a first, and important to him.

“This is the symbolic and actual capital and we are not here enough,” he said.

He also said that under his watch, there is zero tolerance for sexual harassment and sexual assault: “We have a culture to build on.”

Donations Welcome
Written by

Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

Latest comments

  • Such an honor to have wonderful leadership want to stay here in Alaska and serve our great State. May this Commander and his family continue to enjoy everything good that Alaska has to offer and God Bless them all!

  • I have known BG Saxe for a long time, a friend and my Commander. There is no better person to serve as the DMVA Commissioner than BG Saxe. He cares about his people and the mission completely.

  • I am thankful for this man as I have a son who is serving in the Air Guard. Thankful that he has a zero tolerance for sexual harassment.

  • I hope BG Saxe can sniff out some of the riff-raff that remain on the crusty gravy boat of past regimes. There are a few still hanging around. They probably have their heads down, not making too many waves right now…playing nice. Many of them are on the State employee side. They need to root through that org chart and flush them out. There are some good ones, but there are some shady shape-shifters…..

  • A great selection! It is good to see someone was selected for this role who has the background of service and leadership with within the organization. Unfortunately there are too many “political” appointees in a number of critical places who are lacking in experience and leadership within the organization.

  • Congratulations on all of your accomplishments and thank you for your service.