Sarah Palin as Alaska National Guard commander

On September 6, 2008, Los Angeles Times staff writer Julian E. Barnes examines the role of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as commander of the Alaska National Guard in terms of her “foreign policy” credentials.

Seeking to buttress the foreign policy credentials of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, Republicans have repeatedly cited the vice presidential nominee’s experience as commander of the Alaska National Guard.

As governor, Palin oversees military units whose duties include serving overseas, search-and-rescue missions across the state’s vast landscape and manning key elements of the U.S. missile defense system at Ft. Greely.

But foreign deployments of Guard units and the operation of national defense assets like the Ft. Greely missile interceptors are not the responsibility of state governors. Those functions come under the regular U.S. military chain of command.

The Alaska National Guard is unusual in that its jobs include manning part of the U.S. missile defense system. The 49th Missile Defense Battalion works on interceptor missiles designed to shoot down intercontinental missiles.

Members of the Alaska National Guard also were deployed to Iraq, and Palin visited their unit in July 2007. The McCain campaign has pointed to that experience as an example of Palin’s foreign policy background.

Since governors have no role in overseeing Guard members federalized for service in Iraq, military experts said that should not count as foreign policy experience.

Sarah Palin as Alaska National Guard commander

Alaska Army National Guard members and their wives exchange honorary pins during a July ceremony in Barrow Alaska marking the Guards duty in Iraq.

BACK FROM ABROAD: Alaska Army National Guard members and their wives exchange honorary pins during a July ceremony in Barrow, Alaska marking the Guard's duty in Iraq.

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