Alaska National Guard Team

February 15, 2013
By: Kalei Rupp

CAMP DENALI, Alaska—The Alaska National Guard team is set to tackle the trail of the Iron Dog, billed as the “world’s longest, toughest snowmobile race,” ready to leave Big Lake Feb. 17 enroute to Nome, then onto Fairbanks in a 2,000-mile race.

Warrant Officer Michael Williams and Staff Sgt. Vincent Salzbrun, both of 1-207th Aviation, Alaska Army National Guard, are team 28 and representing the Alaska National Guard, the presenting partner of the Iron Dog since 2009. They have known each other for more than a decade and have been riding together the past three years.

“We deployed to Kosovo together from 2003-2004 and again from 2008-2009,” said Williams, born and raised in Anchorage, and the quality control officer-in-charge at the Army Guard aviation hangar.

Williams also has a deployment to Iraq under his belt, while Salzbrun deployed to Haiti. A few weeks after the race, Salzbrun will join his unit, A Company, 1-207th Aviation, in Fort Hood, Texas, where they are preparing for a one-year deployment to Kuwait. He’s a crew chief on the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter. But before he hits the desert, he has his sights set high for a race that will likely test racers with extreme winter weather.

“I’d really like to finish in the top 10,” said Salzbrun, who was born and raised in Bethel, but now calls Eagle River home. “But more importantly, I’d really like to complete this race for the National Guard. I look forward to meeting people along the trail and answering any questions people might have about the Guard.”

It’s a tough race covering some of Alaska’s most remote and rugged terrain combined with daunting weather conditions. Racers often hit top speeds in excess of 100 miles per hour along the trail.

“The biggest part of our strategy is to run our own pace and preserve our sleds and suspension so it gets us to the end in Fairbanks,” Williams said.

The two have logged about 1,200 miles of training and have spent the past month working on the snowmachines to get them prepared for the race.

“I’m ready to get out there and race,” Salzbrun said. “We’ve been pretty busy turning wrenches and working on the snowmachines, plus we both work full-time for the Guard and have been busy with our jobs, so we’re excited to get out there.”

The Alaska National Guard became the lead sponsor for the Iron Dog in 2009 in order to support a uniquely Alaska event and bolster the Alaska National Guard throughout the state and nation.