Retiring from the Guard, a small village experience

168th Wing / Public Affairs
Story by Senior Airman Mae Frazier

Date: 12.03.2018
Posted: 12.03.2018 13:11
News ID: 302039
Air Guardsman returns home to western Alaska for retirement celebration

Walking up the stairs in the headquarters building en route to the commander’s office, you don’t know exactly who you may run into.

Are you nervous? Maybe.

But you’re ready to go.

Best professional attitude: check. Polite greetings in the hallways: check. You approach the “The Boss’ ” office and you come face-to-face with the front line: Master Sgt. Ella Doak.

Her calm, sometimes stern, demeanor has been a constant on the third floor for the past nine years.

After nearly 25 years of service, Doak, administrative assistant to the commander, is retiring from the Alaska Air National Guard. In honor of her service, a retirement ceremony was held in her home village of Kipnuk, in Western Alaska.

Doak’s extensive knowledge on military orders, travel, pay, promotions and many other topics in regards to personnel issues has made her the go-to for many Airmen during her time as command support staff.

“Working for the commander can be challenging. You have to be patient to be in this position and able to adapt to new people and leaders,” said Doak, who has worked with five different commanders. “I know that I’m the best one for it, a Jane of all trades.”

Maj. Matthew McClurg, 168th Maintenance Squadron commander, and Doak previously worked together in the 168th Maintenance Group and again in her current role.

“Master Sgt. Doak always brought level-headedness and a willingness to help; a couple very valuable traits in a senior noncommissioned officer,” McClurg said. “She consistently followed the application of those traits with a warm-hearted smile.”

Doak’s journey began when she made the decision to leave her home, an isolated village accessible only by boat or plane, to attend the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Although she didn’t leave Alaska, leaving Kipnuk was a milestone for her.

“I enjoyed living in a tightknit community like Kipnuk, where everyone knew everyone,” Doak said. “Kipnuk was somewhere where I could just walk to a neighbor’s house for coffee, and I’d see smiling, familiar faces on the way.”

While she was a student a fellow classmate told her about their experience in the active duty Air Force, piquing her interest.

“I grew up in a protected environment, so I had very little experience with many things that people in the lower 48 considered to be ‘normal,’ ” Doak said. “People think we live in a different country here in Alaska.”

She knew enlisting in the military would be a difficult conversation to have with her parents, so she waited until the evening before she was due to ship off to basic military training tell them.

“I knew my parents would be worried and I didn’t want to give them the opportunity to try and stop me from making the decision to join the military,” she said.

Although surprised by the sudden news, Doak’s father, a former Army National Guard soldier, was there the next morning to send her off with a huge hug.

Doak’s first duty station brought her right back to Alaska. She was assigned to Elmendorf Air Force Base — now Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson — with the 962nd Airborne Air Control Squadron, where she worked on AWACS computers.

Though stationed close to home, Doak’s service took her to places like Thailand, Japan and Panama. She was then transferred to Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma, where she served in communications with the 552nd Air Control Wing before receiving orders back to Alaska.

“We were in the capital of Oklahoma, surrounded by 1.5 million other people. I loved the restaurants, football games, concerts and all the experiences the city life offers,” Doak said. “The Air Force opened up a whole new world that I wouldn’t have experienced if I had stayed back home.”

Her last active duty assignment led her home once more to Eielson Air Force Base where she transitioned into the Alaska Air National Guard.
Doak said she viewed the Guard as a small village experience compared to active duty and credited the people she worked with for her longevity of service.

Her retirement service brought her military journey full circle to where she began: her hometown.

“I [was] excited to have the village experience [my] retirement because I want them to know they are not stuck living in the village and there are so many opportunities,” she said. “I want the younger kids to see me and know that they can do whatever they put their mind to.”