by Capt. Megan Liemburg-Archer
477th Fighter Group Public Affairs
3/16/2015 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- It's not every day someone gets a phone call to ride along in Alaska's Iditarod sled-dog race with the reigning champion.
When TSgt Gerald Ingram of the 477th Fighter Group received this call,
he said, "Yes," with a big smile on his face and without a moment's
Ingram teamed up with champion musher, Dallas Seavey, for the Ceremonial
Start of the event and mushed with last year's winner for the first 11
miles of the race.
The Air Force Reserve is sponsoring this year's Iditarod as part of its
recruiting mission. As the only Air Force Reserve unit in Alaska, the
477th FG provided an "IditaRider" and volunteer support to the
world-famous sled-dog race to make the mission a success.
The 477th FG is a small unit of just under 400 members who maintain and
support F-22 Raptor operations alongside their 3rd Wing partners. They
are interested in supporting this uniquely Alaskan event to recruit new
Citizen Airmen into part-time positions in the unit.
The sponsorship kicked off with an invitation to Seavey for a tour of
the F-22 Raptor and an introduction to the Airmen of the 477th FG. With
enthusiasm very similar to Ingram's, Seavey accepted the invitation.
"I thought about it for all of three seconds and then said 'Absolutely this is going to be awesome!'" Seavey said.
Seavey toured the aircraft March 4, with his jaw agape. He shook hands
with unit members, posed for photos and furthered recruiting efforts
while speaking to news-media.
As part of the Iditarod sponsorship, members of the 477th FG served as
dog handlers, crossing guards and recruiting assistants during the
Iditarod's Ceremonial Start in Anchorage, Alaska. The dog handlers
assisted mushers with leading dogs down Fourth Avenue to the starting
line. Every Citizen Airman at the event wore recruiting gear and
answered spectator inquiries to increase awareness of the Air Force
Reserve's presence in Alaska.
Ingram furthered the recruiting mission when he rode the first eleven
miles of the Iditarod with Seavey on Saturday as an IditaRider
representing the Air Force Reserve. His words describing the experience
echoed Seavey's he simply said, "Awesome!"
The sergeant is an aircraft-maintenance supervisor for the Air Force
Reserve, overseeing upkeep and repairs on F-22 Raptors, and a medical
assistant in Anchorage, Alaska, in his civilian occupation.
This year's sponsorship is the beginning of what Stan Hooley, Iditarod
CEO, would like to be an ongoing relationship. He said the Iditarod is
beginning to draw national media attention and they are looking to draw
the interest of the same young audience from which the Air Force Reserve
The Air Force Reserve's sponsorship of the Iditarod can benefit the
Iditarod, a long-standing Alaskan tradition and the Air Force Reserve's
recruitment of Alaskan Citizen Airmen.