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News > Icemen take command at 2013 Yukon Quest
A Journey to the North
A musher and a team of sled dogs rush toward a checkpoint Feb. 10, 2013, during the annual Yukon Quest. The 1000-mile trail between Fairbanks, Alaska, and Whitehorse, Canada, follows the historic route used in the earlier days of the Last Frontier, which provided a passage to the North. (Courtesy photo/Julien Schroder)
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Icemen take command at 2013 Yukon Quest

Posted 3/1/2013   Updated 3/1/2013 Email story   Print story


by Senior Airman Yash Rojas
354th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

3/1/2013 - EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska -- There are few places where man can still prove himself in the face of Mother Nature, and with help from modern technology, mushers had the chance, safely leading sled dog teams down the 2013 Yukon Quest trail Feb. 2 to 15.

This year, Icemen with the 354th Operations Support Squadron volunteered to ensure the Yukon Quest met its safety and logistical demands. Airmen worked six to eight hour shifts at the Command and Control headquarters collecting data on mushers and their locations on the route.

Since 1983, the race participants have continued to make the 1000-mile journey to commemorate the Yukon River, which was once a very critical passage for transporting a variety of supplies in and out of Alaska.

"The event has helped us share with the community of the North and is a celebration of helping each other," said Marti Steury, Yukon Quest Executive Director-Alaska.

Tracking information gathered during the race was collected and input in an online system made available to fans and viewers of the international competition.
With the data, fans could follow the race close to real-time through the Yukon Quest's Website.

The tracking is done to maximize the safety of each team in the competition.

"When a musher made it through a checkpoint, they would call it in, I would take that information ... let headquarters know," said Airman 1st Class Angel Torres, 354th OSS wing scheduling technician.

Many of us have not been a part of something as unique as this competition, said Torres, who participated for the first time this year.

The race provided volunteers with a unique opportunity to oversee tracking, communication, and maintain 24-hour operations, while encouraging an Alaskan state sport and past time.

"It's a very harsh environment for [both the mushers and their sled dogs] who must rely heavily on communication to ensure their safety," Steury said.

According to Steury, Fairbanks set up race communications using ham radios provided by the Arctic Amateur Radio Club. This year was the first year organizers set up a communications center.

Steury said this is where the Airmen came in to help with processing of personnel movement, verify times and dates as they were in the center of all communications between headquarters and those on the trail.

With only 9 communities between Fairbanks and Whitehorse, communication plays an even larger role, she added.

"It is a survival test for the finest athletes on the planet," she said. "It's the most exciting thing on the planet."

The communities of the North, including Eielson Air Force Base, have once again helped each other maintain the Yukon Quest vision -- to be the race that all long distance mushers and fans must experience.

"The high caliber of the Airmen and their excitement to be involved in it was refreshing," said Steury. "They were in the heartbeat of the race."

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