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Service to the core

Guard commander is police chief

Col. Michael Ake, commander, 56th Theater Information Operations Group, Washington Army National Guard, helps dedicate a school in Thailand. Credit: Washington Army National Guard

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Michael Ake's service in his civilian and military occupations is an excellent definition and example of what it means to be a citizen soldier.

As both the interim Chief of Police of Tacoma and the commander of the 56th Theater Information Operations Group (TIOG), Washington Army National Guard, his focus is squarely on service.

"My entire career in both occupations has been about service to my community as well as to our nation," he wrote in an email.

Ake's career in law enforcement began in 1989. His efforts eventually led to him be promoted to assistant chief of police.

After the death of Manny Ellis while in police custody in June of 2020, Tacoma's leaders faced a demand for a community-led antiracist transformation of the police department. 

"We have a great opportunity not just to transform the department but become the leaders of transforming in policing on a local, regional and national level," Ake said shortly after being appointed.

A major source of experience and confidence in leading Tacoma's police department springs from Ake's service in the Washington Army National Guard (WANG).

Enlisting in the Army Reserve in 1987, he underwent basic training at Fort Leonard Wood before receiving advanced training as a medic at Fort Sam Houston and the Madigan Army Medical Center at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

In 1993 he transferred into the WANG to attend Officer Candidate School and branched into Infantry.

"I wanted to serve our nation in gratitude for the opportunities the United States provided for me and my family," continued Ake.

"I also want to show my appreciation for all those who serve in our military - active, reserve and Guard service members."

An immigrant from South Korea, Ake's family spent time in Florida, Germany and Georgia before his dad retired from then Fort Lewis in 1985.

"The military lifestyle was in our comfort zone, and we realized it was mutually benefitting."

As the current commander of the 56th TIOG, Ake is responsible for the training and potential deployment of intelligence, information and special operations units that are tailored to meet combatant commanders' requirements across all phases of an operation.

His use of these skill sets were apparent during his 2008 deployment to Afghanistan as part of an embedded training team member with the 1st Infantry Division.

"I was given the opportunity to mentor and work with an Afghan Provisional Chief of Police who commanded a very large police department," he explained.

"My experiences in both law enforcement and the Guard were instrumental in adding legitimacy for my role in the eyes of my counterpart."

Ake believes that the connection between his service as a police officer and in the Guard has served him well.

The Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber of Commerce noticed this and recognized Ake as its 2018 Howard O. Scott Service Member of the Year recipient.

"Both of my occupations are service related," concluded Ake. 

"We serve the people in our community at a local, state and national level. It's about giving your best, working together as a team, and sharing common values."

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