Alaska National Guard Team Ready

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE February 18, 2011 (By: Kalei Rupp)
Alaska National Guard Iron Dog team ready for Sunday race start

CAMP DENALI, Alaska— The Alaska National Guard Iron Dog team is putting the finishing touches on their snowmachines and logging in the last of their training miles in preparation for the start of the Iron Dog pro-class division on Feb. 20.

Command Sgt. Maj. Pamela Harrington, of Palmer, and Sgt. 1st Class Elaine Jackson, of Anchorage, will represent the Alaska National Guard in the pro-class division of the Iron Dog, known as the world’s longest and toughest snowmobile race. They will be the only all-female team of 28 teams to race in the 2011 pro-class, which traverses more than 2,000 miles of trail from Big Lake to Nome, then on to Fairbanks. If they finish, they will be only the second all-female team to ever finish the race, the first since 2001.

In a first for the Iron Dog, there will also be an ambassador team of riders, to include an Alaska Army National Guardsman, serving as goodwill ambassadors for the race. The team of three will make several public appearances in numerous towns along the race route.

“The purpose of the team is to express the gratitude of both the Iron Dog race and the Alaska National Guard to all volunteers and local community members at each checkpoint along the race,” said Lt. Col. Joseph Lawendowski, Alaska Army National Guard Recruiting and Retention commander and ambassador team rider. “We will be moving at the trail-class pace and start with the trail-class riders, but we will travel the entire route of the pro-class race from Big Lake to Nome to Fairbanks.”

For the second year in a row, the Alaska National Guard is the presenting partner for the Iron Dog. The Guard became the lead sponsor in 2009 in order to support a uniquely Alaska event and bolster the Alaska National Guard throughout the state and nation.

“We view the Alaska National Guard as an excellent partner to help us elevate the race and grow to the next level,” said Kevin Kastner, Iron Dog executive director. “With the Guard, we have the opportunity to strengthen our relationships with the community and work on the education side to really connect on the ground with the youth. If we can engage and excite the communities out there, that’s a huge benefit.”

The Alaska National Guard team has put in hundreds of miles training for the race and spent countless hours preparing their snowmachines for the rugged terrain. But ultimately, they hope their experience as Guard members will give them an edge.

“An advantage we have as National Guardsmen is that we train for the mental aspect – the stamina, the sleep deprivation, the perseverance,” Harrington said. “You never quit, you never leave a fallen Soldier behind. You know you will both prevail. That mental strategy is going to help us overcome any physical challenge.”

The green flag for the 2011 Iron Dog pro-class drops Feb. 20 at 11 a.m. in Big Lake. Harrington and Jackson will be among 12 rookie teams and 27 rookie drivers.

“We’re hungry and ready for the challenge,” Jackson said.