Guard Team Prepares for Race

Alaska Army National Guard Iron Dog team prepares for race

CAMP DENALI, Alaska— With roughly 2,000 miles of riding to log in within the next two months and eyes on the record books, the Alaska National Guard Iron Dog team is gearing up to hit the snowmachine trails in the coming weeks.

National Guard 2011 Pro Class riders

Photo credit: Kalei Rupp, Dept. of Military & Veterans Affairs (Alaska National Guard) Public Affairs

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 30 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.

“To me, it’s one of those challenges I couldn’t help but say yes to,” said Harrington, who is the command sergeant major for the Alaska Army National Guard’s 38th Troop Command. “We’re taking this seriously – failure is not an option. We’re running to represent the Alaska National Guard.”

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.”

Last year, Jackson raced in the trail-class division and drew large crowds at each of the checkpoints. She’s hoping to bring the same enthusiasm to the villages this year.

“I enjoyed interacting with people from the various communities during the race, and I hope my participation and presence on the trail this year can bring inspiration and excitement,” said Jackson, the operations non-commissioned officer for the Alaska Army National Guard’s Recruiting and Retention detachment.

Right now, the focus is on training and preparing for the long haul to Fairbanks, and they feel being a Guard member gives 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.”

Harrington said she will rely on her background in maintenance to help the team on the unforgiving trail.

“I spent six years in Nome as part of a two-man maintenance shop for the Guard,” Harrington said. “I’m going to do some homework on specifics prior to the race and give my best guess as to what kind of repairs we are going to be doing on the trail and prepare for them.”

Having run the race to Nome last year, Jackson will utilize her knowledge of the trail, but more importantly her insight of the race.

“My experience last year taught me to expect the unexpected,” Jackson said. “The trail changes significantly every year because of the weather, so ultimately, when you’re on the trail anything can happen.”

The 2011 Iron Dog pro-class will start Feb. 20 in Big Lake. Harrington and Jackson will be among 13 rookie teams and 32 rookie drivers. They’re looking to make their mark and cross the Fairbanks finish line.

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


  1. Gene Lewan says

    Go Army Guard. We’ll be cheering you on from down in Washington.
    242nd Combat Communications Squadron.

  2. Jackie says

    Sorry to break it to you ladies…but Missy & I finished in 2001…in Fairbanks. You will NOT be the first women’s team to finish in Fairbanks…we’ve already done so. Amazing how far some research will get ya!
    I wish you the best of luck.

  3. ray says

    ok ladies faster is not always better so around 70 to 80 mph is fast and just hit your rest stops and just ride it like you stole it……..the guys that pass you will most likely will be in the trees.

  4. Pam says

    Thanks Jackie!
    Congratulations to you and Missy on your history-making run in ’01! Your right, a little research goes a long way – we corrected the press release. You gals are tough and a tough act to follow! We are praying for safe sledding, smart strategizing, tight bolts, and team finish in Fairbanks. If we get a great time that will be bonus. As an “old lady” rider, I am hoping to capitalize on all the great experience and training I have had in the AK Nat’l Guard (like snow-cavin’ it at -30!). It keeps me young and motivated, not to mention chasing my husband around on a sled on the Seward peninsula for 6 years. Elaine’s the power house racer, I’ll be ‘draftin’” behind her. Any words of wisdom from your time on the trail would be welcomed.


  5. G.Button says

    Pam, Jane and I will be watching to the finish. Your the GREATEST!
    Gary Your old hunting buddy from Grafton N.Y.