Sunday, February 22, 2015

Iron Dog races through JBER for the first time

by Tech. Sgt. Robert Barnett
JBER Public Affairs

2/22/2015 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska  -- The Iron Dog snow machine race took place Feb. 21, and for the first time, the race started in Anchorage and drove through Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, so that base residents would have a better view of the event.

"The Iron Dog is the world's longest and toughest snowmobile race; nearly 40 teams of competitors will cover 2,031 miles of remote wilderness and tundra from South Central Alaska to Nome to Fairbanks.," said Air Force Col. Brian Bruckbauer, JBER and 673d Air Base Wing commander. "Racers cover this grueling course in as little as 36 hours. "

To support the race's segment through JBER, 673d Security Forces Squadron provided designated parking areas and staff to direct residents and military identification card holders to the viewing areas.

"I am happy that I can help others have a first-eye view of something they might not have the chance to see anywhere else," said Air Force Master Sgt. Tammy Miller, 673d SFS noncommissioned officer in charge of base access.

There were two viewing locations: Dena'ina road and at Otter Lake. More than ninety people watched the event.

"It's great that we're able to come out and [my family gets] to see it all up close," said Air Force Master Sgt. Charles Roach, 773d Logistics Readiness Squadron vehicle operations section chief. "We're only a few minutes from our house. It's nice that they were able to get this to come through the base; it puts people a lot closer to the racers."

Morgan's family have kept up with the racers and participated in several performances.

"It was amazing, like always," said Morgan Roach, 15. "I've met Cory [Davis] a couple times. We've watching Iron Dog twice now. I was happy I got to high-five him today."

Iron Dog is a long distance cross-country snow machine race, said Kevin Kastner, executive director of Iron Dog, Inc.

"It's a team sport," he said. "They ride in pairs for safety - they're covering literally 2,000 miles of some very distant and remote land. Anything is possible from an injury standpoint, whether it's weather or a crash."

This year, between pro class and trail class, there are 104 snow machines on the trail, with 37 teams in pro class he said.

"The trail class [is] more of a recreational ride that just goes from the Big Lake area to Nome," Kastner said. "It's an addition to the traditional race in the same timeframe."

Iron Dog races began in 1984 with a group of snowmobilers who "had this bright idea of going to Nome, similar to the Iditarod. They use a large part of the Northern route of the Iditarod trail."

"They wanted to test the machines and man versus the conditions and distance," Kastner said. "That's really what it began as. Over the years, it's morphed into a bigger event. In the 1993-1994 timeframe the race was extended to Fairbanks. There was a race to Nome, then a race down the coast, taking the Yukon River to Fairbanks and finishing there.

"I've been in this since 2010; it was the year that we rearranged the race a little bit more to downtown Fairbanks. We added a few more miles and a little more visibility. We also started working with Fort Wainwright to traverse through some of their live-firing area to get to Fairbanks," Kastner said.

Support from the Alaska National Guard was a key component for additional exposure getting Iron Dog into a much more visible area, he said.

"We've condensed our events - it used to spread over three weekends," Kastner said. "We've got it down to ten-day cycle."

The events preceding the race were scheduled against the actual start, he said.

Kastner said the intent was to give back to JBER and the National Guard who had been supporting them and to provide an opportunity for the military families to come out and have first-hand access to the event.

"It's cool to watch the racers from the car as they come pretty close," said Army Staff Sgt. Walter McEwing, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division. "With the rain and everything, it's really nice that we can just stay in the car and let the kids climb around and stick their heads out the window to watch the racers go by. I'd love to see it next year, and so would my kids. They really enjoy it."

"It'd be cool if we could ride a stretch with them [next time]," Roach said.

Dempsey Discusses Pacific Rebalance During Australia Visit

By Lisa Ferdinando
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

SYDNEY, Feb. 22, 2015 – The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is slated to meet with his Australian counterpart here tomorrow, as he focuses on the importance of the U.S. military rebalance to the Pacific.

Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey and the Australian chief of the Defense Force, Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin, will have a day of talks to include current global challenges, interoperability, and strengthening cooperation.

The United States and Australia have excellent relations, and defense officials have noted the many important contributions Australia has made to global security missions, including Iraq and Afghanistan.

Australia Supports Resolute Support, Inherent Resolve Missions

Australia is currently contributing troops to Resolute Support, the NATO-led mission to train, advise and assist Afghan forces as well as providing military trainers to Operation Inherent Resolve in Iraq.

Dempsey's trip to Australia followed yesterday’s brief visit to the remote Pacific Kwajalein Atoll, the home to the U.S. Army Kwajalein Atoll/Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site.

In Kwajalein, the chairman told a town hall audience that the U.S. rebalance to the Pacific region is a matter of "national imperative."

It is important, Dempsey said, because 7 billion of the 9 billion people in the world are projected to be living in the arc from India to China by 2050.

National Security Interests Migrating to the Pacific Region

"That's why we're here -- precisely to continue to reinforce that point that our national security interests are migrating to the Pacific over time," the chairman said.

"As a Pacific nation that takes our Pacific alliances and partnerships seriously, we will continue to build on our active and enduring presence in the region, including with Australia," said Dempsey's spokesman, Air Force Col. Ed Thomas.

In College Station, Texas, the first stop in this current tour, Dempsey told a forum at Texas A&M University that he travels to the Pacific area a few times each year to meet with his counterparts and "try to understand the region from their perspective."

U.S. Rebalance to Pacific Region a ‘Steady’ Effort

The rebalance has been a "steady" effort, the chairman stated.

"It’s more like a marathon than a sprint, which is good," he said of the U.S. rebalance to the Pacific region. "It’s inevitable. It’s imperative -- and I don’t use those words often."

While most U.S. partnerships in the region have been bilateral, the United States is seeking to expand that further, Dempsey said.

"What we’re trying to do is kind of knit it all together because I think a multinational or multilateral security environment is the environment in which I think China can rise peacefully," he said.

While in Australia, Dempsey also is slated to meet with David Hurley, the governor of the state of New South Wales.