Two long-time area residents received military promotions this past week.
Col. Blake Gettys of Eagle River was promoted to the rank of brigadier general on Sat., Sept. 24 at an 11 a.m. ceremony held at the Arctic Warrior Events Center on the Fort Richardson side of the JBER (Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson) complex.
Gettys previously held the position of Director of Joint Staff for the Alaska National Guard. In this capacity, he advised Brig. General Laurie Hummel, the adjutant general for the Alaska National Guard, and the assistant adjutants general for the Alaska Army and Air National Guard divisions on issues and policies related to defense support, cooperation with civil authorities and security while building the capacity of emergency management throughout Alaska via community engagements.
He is highly familiar with the capabilities of the personnel that he will now oversee as brigadier general.
“There are some truly gifted and talented people currently serving on the Alaska National Guard joint staff,” Gettys said in a press release written by Maj. John Callahan of the 176th Wing Public Affairs. “I look forward to working with all of them.”
Hummel said in the press release that Gettys had earned the star by repeatedly proving his ability to successfully lead complex organizations and initiatives.
“When designing the leadership plan for our joint staff, I knew I needed a director who was doctrinally smart, a good leader and motivator, and who not only would not be scared off by wicked, gnarly problems but would embrace them,” Hummel said in her remarks at the ceremony. “Blake Gettys’ performance as commander of the 176th Wing earned my trust and confidence in his potential for future service in the general officer ranks.”
Gettys has 32 years of military experience. His career began as a student at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Spring, Colo., in 1998. He was the graduate assistant football coach at the Academy for one year before attending his undergraduate pilot training. He served in the U.S. Air Force until 1999 flying nine different types of aircraft including the C-130, C-17, DC-9 HH-60 – all fixed-wing aircraft – and the Sikorsky HH-60 Pave Hawk, a helicopter used by the Air Force for the insertion and recovery of special operations and search and rescue missions.
Gettys has more than 5,000 military flight hours and currently is a command pilot. He has earned numerous awards including the Legion of Merit – one of two “neck” awards given to U.S. military personnel for outstanding achievement and service – and five awards of the Meritorious Service Medal. He has served on many overseas deployments, including tours in Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan.
He joined the Alaska Air National Guard’s 176th Wing in 1999. He has held multiple command positions including being commander of the 176th Operations Support Flight and the 176th Operations Group. In Oct. 2014, he was named wing commander.
Gettys is a civilian pilot flying the B-747 for Delta Airlines. He will continue to work as a civilian pilot while maintaining the “traditional” Guard schedule of working one weekend per month and other days during the year as needed.
Gettys and his wife, April Gettys, live in Eagle River.
Joseph Streff, of Chugiak, was also recently promoted to brigadier general in the Alaska Army National Guard on Wed., Sept 21 at 3 p.m. at the Alaska National Guard Armory on JBER.
“It is a privilege to now wear this new rank as I serve as the Army commander,” Streff said in a press release written by Sgt. David Bedard of the 134th Public Affairs Detachment. “From this day forward, we will continue to endeavor to make this a top-notch organization.”
In his new position, Streff is responsible for the equipping and training of the approximately 1,800 Alaska-based citizen soldiers and for readiness at Alaska Army National Guard centers across the state.
Hummel stressed the magnitude of Streff’s new role as she presented him with his new charge.
“This ceremony marks a momentous occasion in a military career, as there are fewer than 200 officers in the entire United States Army across all components that hold the rank of brigadier general,” Hummel said. “Those of us here today bear witness to a relatively rare ceremony.”
Streff has 29 years of experience in Army aviation – all of it with the Alaska Army National Guard.
In Feb. 2015, he assumed command of the Alaska Army National Guard – a promotion that capped off an unusually long “home grown” career in the Alaska Army National Guard.
He began in 1987 as an enlisted air traffic controller. In 1990, Streff graduated flight school for the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter and was appointed to the rank of warrant officer. He attended Officer Candidate School and earned commission as a second lieutenant. He has served as an aviation liaison officer, operations officer, and company section leader for the 1st Battalion, 207th Aviation Regiment at Fort Richardson. As a captain, Streff was commander of the aviation maintenance company and attended the Aviation Maintenance Course and UH-60 Test Pilot Course to earn his aviator wings. Streff next attended the fixed-wing C-12 Huron course in 2001 and continued his service as the operations officer and executive officer of the 1st Battalion, 207th Aviation Regiment at Fort Richardson. He attended the Command and General Staff College in 2005 and he briefly served as the Aviation Program Manager of the National Guard Bureau in Arlington, Va., before a 2006 deployment to Iraq serving as the Multi-National Corps Air Operations Section leader during the troop surge. Streff returned to Alaska in 2007 taking on the role of State Army Aviation Officer for the 207th at Fort Richardson and as the deputy officer for the United States Property and Fiscal operations. Streff was promoted to colonel in 2013.
At his Sept. 21 promotion ceremony, Streff told the audience he looks forward to the continuation of his command.
“I have never been more excited for this organization than I am right now,” he said. “We are a capable, agile and motivated force that is combat tested and proven to be on par with the best. We have never been better manned, equipped, trained or prepared to do our state and federal missions.”
Streff has earned the Defense Meritorious Service Medal – an award given for service in a joint activity in which the member distinguishes themselves with non-combat outstanding achievement – and three awards of Meritorious Service Medal.
Streff and his wife, Lynn Streff, live in Chugiak. They have five children Ben, Katy, Caroline, Josiah and Jonathan. Josiah is an Alaska Army National Guard Warrant Officer 1 and a UH-60 pilot.