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11th Air Force commander honored during Alaska Native naming ceremony

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Emily Farnsworth
  • Joint Base Elmendorf-Ricardson Public Affairs

The Alaska Federation of Natives hosted a naming ceremony honoring U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Thomas Bussiere for his service and active engagement with the Alaska Native community on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, Aug. 28, 2019.

Bussiere, commander, Alaskan North American Aerospace Defense Command Region, North American Aerospace Defense Command; commander, Alaskan Command, U.S. Northern Command; and commander, 11th Air Force, Pacific Air Forces, received names from three Alaskan regional cultures: the Yup’ik, the Tlingit and the Iñupiat.

“The importance of three names being given highlights the many Alaska Native cultures,” said Greg Razo, Cook Inlet Region, Inc. vice president. “To be recognized and given a name by three of the important native cultures in our state and among our people is truly an honor.”

The event marked the third time the AFN has honored an active-duty military member with the ceremony. The first was the previous ANR/ALCOM/11AF commander, Lt. Gen. Kenneth Wilsbach. The second was the current United States Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command. commander, General Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy.

AFN is the largest statewide organization for Natives in Alaska. They represent more then 140,000 members of the Native community for both government and public policy issues and promote the preservation of the unique Native culture.

“We are honored to bestow Native names to Lt. Gen. Bussiere to recognize his strong character, and we are proud to adopt him into the Alaska Native community,” said Julie Kitka, AFN president. “It is not about accomplishments or things he has done. It is acknowledgement of his leadership and who he is. It is heartfelt from those in the Alaska Native community.”

One of the names bestowed on Bussiere was the Yup’ik name “Evuneq” which means stationary solid ice structure. The ice structures were used as safe places from moving packs of ice and ways to find direction and hunt.

“We decided upon the name because we felt it really exemplified the attributes, the accomplishments and the man who Lt. Gen. Bussiere has become and will become in the future,” said Andrew Guy, Calista Corporation president and CEO. “Our culture has a system of continually improving yourself for reaching excellence and that is what we see in the life of Lt. Gen. Bussiere. He has really dedicated himself to living a life of discipline and excellence so he can make a contribution to his family, community and nation.”

AFN members presented treasured gifts to Bussiere to thank him for his active involvement with the Alaska Native community since he made interactions with the community and engagements with key leaders a priority of his command.

The ceremony also featured a performance by a Tsimshian Performance Group, Git Hoan Dancers, to showcase another part of Alaska Native culture.

Bussiere said he was honored to be accepted into the Alaska Native community.

“There is probably nothing a member of those wearing the uniform will not do to defend their family - it is why we serve,” said Bussiere. “When you sign the dotted line, you are saying to those around you, you are willing to lay down your life for theirs. The only thing different tonight is now I get to call you my family, and hopefully I’ll live up to that trust and that honor.”