By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
AL-SUBIYA, Kuwait, Feb. 26, 2011 - Army Chief Warrant Officer 4 Todd Simmons was a young soldier 20 years ago when his 82nd Airborne Division arrived in Saudi Arabia after Saddam Hussein ordered his troops to take over Kuwait.
Simmons was among about 300 U.S. military members of every service who participated in a massive celebration of freedom and partnership.
The Desert Storm anniversary celebration began last month, leading up to today's "Liberation Day" activities that included a huge parade of marching troops, ground vehicles and airpower.
Simmons, now an embedded military advisor to the Kuwaiti land forces assigned to the Office of Military Cooperation Kuwait, remembered back to the day his 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment hit the ground – Aug. 7, 1990.
They became the lead in a massive coalition that would grow to nearly 1 million leading up to a coalition air campaign. After Saddam Hussein defied a U.N. mandate to withdraw his forces from Kuwait, they crossed the border into Iraq and launched the 100-day ground war that led to Kuwait's liberation.
Like Simmons, Army Maj. Miguel Juarez recalls those dark days when Kuwaitis suffered at the hands of Saddam Hussein's Republican Guard forces.
Juarez was a young enlisted soldier and husband of just two weeks when his 343rd Air Defense Artillery unit deployed to Saudi Arabia from Fort Bliss, Texas, on Sept. 26, 1990.
Their Patriot air defense missiles were quickly put to work defending against the Iraqi army's Scud missiles.
"I remember telling my wife back then, 'We have to fight this fight so that my children don't have to fight this fight,'" Juarez said.
Little did he know at the time that he and thousands of other U.S. forces ultimately would return here – this time during Operation Iraqi Freedom and now, Operation New Dawn.
He deployed to Iraq three times, from 2004 to 2005, from 2006 to 2008, then from 2009 to 2010.
Now working with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, Area Support Group, based at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, Juarez said he's thrilled to help the Kuwaitis celebrate the 20th anniversary of their liberation. It's particularly meaningful, he said, because it correlates with the year the United States will draw down all its forces in Iraq.
"For me, this is closure," Juarez said. "I can honestly write my wife and tell her that our kids will not have to fight this fight – at least not this one, anyway."
Army Staff Sgt. Scott Hamilton, a West Virginia National Guardsmen, was among thousands of reserve-component forces mobilized to support Operation Desert Storm.
A howitzer driver and cannon crew member with the 1st Battalion, 201st Field Artillery, he deployed with just one week's notice in December 1990 as part of the massive military buildup here.
"I was young and kind of scared," Hamilton admitted, facing an uncertain enemy and missing the birth of his first daughter.
But the deployment changed him forever. "It made you really appreciate what you have in the United States, and the freedom we have," he said.
It also gave him insights into the Arab world, and understanding he said proved invaluable during later deployments to the region.
Like Juarez, Hamilton said returning here for the 20th anniversary of Operation Desert Storm brought closure and gratification and an appreciation of the U.S.-Kuwaiti relationship forged during the campaign. "They have become a stronger and better country," he said.
Many U.S. military participants in today's festivities, including Army Sgt. Steve Drefke from the Washington, D.C.-based 3rd Infantry Division, were too young to experience Operation Desert Storm personally.
Drefke, among about 120 "Old Guard" soldiers here, including a color guard carrying guidons of every Army unit in the Desert Storm campaign, remembers the war from the perspective of an 11-year-old boy fascinated by events on the TV news.
"It had a huge influence on me, and a lot to do with me coming into the Army," he said.
Twenty years later, with 12 years of Army service under his belt, Drefke said he's happy to see the transformation that's occurred in Kuwait and the friendship that's endured.
"It's really neat that we are such great partners with the Kuwaitis," he said.
Today, Simmons and his fellow Operation Desert Storm veterans say they're gratified to see the fruits of their labors here – in terms of Kuwaiti military capabilities, and the freedoms being celebrated today.
As a Kuwaiti army advisor, Simmons said he's built close ties to his Kuwaiti counterparts he said are "using the good-quality equipment they have and making a good effort to do a really, really good job protecting themselves."
As the force matures, Simmons said its members are anxious for advice as they acquire new technologies and increase their capabilities. Sometimes they take it, he said, and sometimes, increasingly self-confident, they choose their own ways of doing business.
"The important thing is, we are here for them, whatever it is they as a military want to do," Simmons said.
Special Report: Travels With Mullen
U.S., Kuwait Mark Gulf War 20th Anniversary
Monday, February 28, 2011
Saturday, February 26, 2011
By Elaine Wilson
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 25, 2011 - I'd like to welcome guest blogger Navy Lt. Tiffani Walker. In this blog, Walker writes about how she balances being a mother with being a military member, and the pride she feels in both roles. - Elaine Wilson
Guilt and Motherhood
By Tiffani Walker
Definition of tumultuous: riotous, turbulent, disturbed, moving across country with two small children while husband is 3,000 miles away.
Life has been tumultuous for me lately. I changed my career field and got a new job, I transferred from Washington state to Washington, D.C., I just received my household goods into our new home and I commute almost four hours a day, but all of those things are pretty "normal" for me.
What has me really spun up and wrung out is my other job, a mom to two amazing, beautiful germ-filled petri dishes that are my children.
I enlisted in the Navy 12 years ago when life was simpler and I was simpler. I had a sea bag full of things that were given to me and backpack full of things that were mine: a couple of pictures, a toothbrush and enough stuff to write home to mom and dad.
Wherever I went all I had to worry about was a small wallet to hold my brand new ID card and getting myself in to work the next day. Even when I moved, a new roll of toilet paper was provided to me. I can't remember what I did with all of my free time, but I wish I could find some of it now so I could figure out why I'm not hip anymore.
My children have changed my world and my daily calendar. I walk out the door with no less than five bags in the morning and my "free time" is now filled with things like "Cheernastics" and Mommy and Me swim, the smell of laundry and bleach wipes. I can't say that I would want it differently, but I can say that I am exhausted, kept moving through the days and weeks by guilt, my will to be a wonderful mother and diet soda.
Military moms have the regular parental guilt that comes from worrying if our kids have enough: enough interaction, enough activities, enough education, but we have more insidious guilt as well. The kind that sneaks into the house and sits at the dinner table when Mom or Dad is on duty (again) or on deployment. The kind of guilt that hangs around your neck like a weight when our child's arms haven't hung there for not just hours, but days, weeks and months.
I combat the guilt with simple things that I can control and try to let the rest go. It is a battle every day not to worry about the bigger things, but I manage by taking the time to breathe in the smell of baby formula and lotion when my son falls asleep in my arms at night and laughing when I see what books and stuffed animals my daughter has smuggled into her bed for the evening. My beautiful girl who talks of faraway places and has a section in her bookshelf dedicated to biographies and one to simply "Tinkerbell."
I take pride in my job and knowing that one day my kids will recognize that I got out of bed, put on a uniform that I was proud to wear, took them to day care and did the best I could everyday for them, for me and for my service. I hope they know I was lucky enough to be in the military and be their mother.
By Donna Miles of American Forces Press Service
MANAMA, Bahrain, Feb. 25, 2011 - Traveling through the Middle East to confer with U.S. allies in the midst of regional unrest, the top U.S. military officer visited a new Marine Corps headquarters element here designed to evacuate noncombatants or provide humanitarian assistance and disaster response.
Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, checked in today on the Marine Corps Forces Central Command Forward element at Naval Support Activity Bahrain.
The headquarters stood up in November to bring Marine Corps Forces Central Command what its other sister services already have: a forward element within the 20-nation Centcom area of operations.
"Trying to conduct business from the MARFORCENT headquarters in Tampa is a bit difficult," Lt. Col. Mark Duffer, the element's deputy current operations officer, told reporters traveling with Mullen. "So we wanted to push something forward to the here and now, to what's happening so we can [create an] effect right away."
Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, Jr., assistant commandant of the Marine Corps, pushed for the new forward element to focus on two primary missions: theater security cooperation and crisis management. "This was his vision here," Duffer said. "And his vision started a couple of years ago and finally came to fruition here."
MARFORCENT stood up with a staff of 161 Marines, sailors and civilian employees working in a tiny facility within Naval Support Activity Bahrain.
The location proved to be perfect, operationally as well as geographically, Duffer said. Home to Naval Forces Central Command and the U.S. Fifth Fleet, close partners in the MARFORCENT mission, it's situated smack in the middle of the Centcom area of operations.
"If you put your finger right on the map, on Bahrain, you can see we are very centrally located and [that it's] a very good location," Duffer said. "We can ... reach out and touch anybody, so we provide that stabilizing force."
From their new location, Marines assigned to the element work to build capability within regional militaries, concentrating more on ground than amphibious forces. "We focus ... on the basics of what Marines do: hand-to-hand combat and marksmanship and other things that are very basic and make up the Marine Corps ethos that we want to provide," Duffer said.
The goal, he explained, is to help strengthen regional allies' forces so they are better able to defend their nations and, if needed, to provide coalition support for future operations.
Meanwhile, MARFORCENT is now positioned to provide faster response to a regional crisis -- particularly noncombatant evacuation operations and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.
"We are that 9-1-1 force people can tap into to efficiently, effectively and always get the job done," Duffer said.
As unrest ripples through the Middle East, he recognized the potential for the new element to be called on to help evacuate civilian noncombatants caught in the violence.
"As we stand up this command center, we have an ability to command and control that" at Centcom's direction, he said. "We can actually stand up as a joint task force with coalition forces, as well as provide [evacuation operations] within this region.
"We are prepared to do that, but have not been asked as of yet," Duffer said.
The more certain requirement -- the only question being its exact timing and location -- is a rapid humanitarian assistance and disaster response in the event of a crisis in the region.
Brig. Gen. Brian Beaudreault, commander of Marine Expeditionary Brigade Bahrain, understands that need firsthand. When the forward element stood up last fall, he was on the ground in Pakistan, commanding the U.S. joint task force that responded to devastating floods there.
"This is one of the key tasks that we can be assigned to do, so I think we are very well positioned" to carry it out," Duffer said.
Gunnery Sgt. Adam Doyle, who served with MARFORCENT headquarters in Tampa before helping form the forward element, said the new location improves the ability to coordinate operations, as well as logistics. "The command here brings ready access," he said. "It provides what we need to be more responsive."
As the element continues to take shape, Doyle and his fellow MARFORCENT Marines are preparing to move next month into a larger headquarters being renovated across the base.
Exactly how many Marines ultimately will join the element is classified, but Duffer said he sees developments underway as a sign of MARFORCENT's long-term commitment to strengthening partnerships and protecting U.S. interests in the region.
"We are building up this command center for a lasting, enduring mission within [Centcom's] area of responsibility," he said.
Friday, February 25, 2011
Ludhiana : The Christian Medical College & Hospital, Ludhiana has been chosen to host the prestigious National Continuing Medical Education (CME) of the Indian Association of CardioVascular & Thoracic Surgeons (IACTS). Dr Harinder Singh Bedi – Head of CardioVascular & Thoracic Surgery at the CMC & H – said that at the recent 57th Annual Conference of the IACTS the CMC was chosen out of a panel of 8 Institutes which had applied for this prestigious meeting. The National CME is a condensed educative programme for all young Cardio Vascular and Thoracic Surgeons of India. A distinguished faculty from India and abroad is chosen to come to CMC to take part in the CME. The CME will be held in the first week of November 2011. Leading pioneers from India including Dr KM Cherian, Dr Sampath Kumar, Dr JS Gujral, Dr Bhattacharya, Dr Girinath, Dr Trehan and others have been invited for the lectures. The delegates are MCh students from all over India. Such a programme goes a long way in ensuring quality of training of the young surgeons.
CMC & H was chosen in view of the excellent track record it enjoys in the Cardio Vascular field. The surgeons of CMC are credited with innovating the world’s first ever series of multivessel beating heart surgery and of minimally invasive cardiac surgery and endovascular management of disorders which would otherwise need complicated open surgeries. In fact Dr Bedi had the largest number of presentations and lectures at the 57thConference in Chennai which were greatly appreciated by the National and international delegates.
Dr Abraham G Thomas – Director of CMC & H – reiterated that the CMC being one of the oldest Institutes of India was always in the forefront on imparting quality education so that the people of this country are not deprived of any therapy. --Rector Kathuria
Thursday, February 24, 2011
One of the leaders of the opposition coalition Southern Movement, he had reportedly called for a “Day of Rage” against the Yemeni government to be held in the south.
“If Hassan Ba’oom is being held solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression and assembly, he is a prisoner of conscience and must be released immediately and unconditionally,” said Luther.
“The authorities must also ensure he receives all necessary medical treatment without delay and that he is protected from torture and other ill-treatment.”
Scores of others have been arrested following protests in Aden on February 16. They are believed to be held without charge or trial in al-Mansurah Central Prison.
Protests have been taking place in Aden and other places in southern Yemen since 2007 against perceived discrimination by the government against southerners and, increasingly, in favour of the secession of the south of the country.
Following demonstrations in the capital Sana’a and other cities in recent weeks calling for the president to stand down and regime change, protesters in Aden have started to make similar demands.
The Southern Movement is an umbrella movement of political groups, some of which want the south of the country to secede.
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
Last evening had a FB chat with one of my students. How nostalgic such interactions can become...! It is pleasing to the eyes and ears when your students tell you that they have learn t from you not only the subject matter but also the positive values to live meaningful life. It was also revealing for me that students are much more sensitive and sensible than we are ready to admit at that point of time.
I believe that learning is life long process. Last evening again I was made aware that I need to to take care of my body language and off the cuff remarks. Young minds observe keenly and take their own meanings which may not have been intended.
My conviction that one needs to keep doing what one deems right was also reinforced. It will take the desire effect, may be too subtly to be perceptible.The same feeling was given by two other students recently.Thanks DK, thanks KJ and thanks KK for making me feel worthy of myself.--Jaswant Singh Aman
|Jaswant Singh Aman|
My conviction that one needs to keep doing what one deems right was also reinforced. It will take the desire effect, may be too subtly to be perceptible.The same feeling was given by two other students recently.Thanks DK, thanks KJ and thanks KK for making me feel worthy of myself.--Jaswant Singh Aman
Monday, February 21, 2011
he word γυμνάσιον (gymnasion) was used in Ancient Greece, meaning a locality for both physical and intellectual education of young men. The later meaning of intellectual education persisted in German and other languages to denote a certain type of school providing secondary education, the Gymnasium, whereas in English the meaning of physical education was pertained in the word gym.Now
Zero Gravity slimming, beauty & dance studio took another step for the Ludhiana residents.he management of the
A gym cum beauty studio was inaugurated in Model Town Ext. on Sunday by its chairperson Rajan Nagpal.
Speaking on the occasion Rajan said our mission is to provide the most accurate and up to date center for slimming beauty and dance with new techniques and all latest facilities.
Inauguration Ceremony was started with the opening prayer in which all members of the gym, staff members, fitness experts and guests participated.
Your quest for slimming, fitness, beauty and dance ends here.
While giving the vote of thanks Director Ms. Shikha said Gym area equipped with latest electronic machinery. She told about modern era slimming therapies with unique computerized treatment with botanic muscle stimulation and many more. Gymnasia (i.e., places for gymnastics) in Germany were an outgrowth of the Turnplatz, an outdoor area for gymnastics, promoted by German educator Friedrich Jahn and the Turners, a nineteenth-century political and gymnastic movement. The first indoor gymnasium in Germany was probably the one built in Hesse in 1852 by Adolph Spiess, an enthusiast for boys' and girls' gymnastics in the schools.
Zero Gravity (the slimming, beauty & dance studio) is a center where you get all the facilities under one roof. We are in weight loss profession since last 7 years. We also deals with medical problems, but don’t believe in dieting or medicine.
In the United States, the Turner movement thrived in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The first Turners group was formed in Cincinnati in 1848. The Turners built gymnasia in several cities like Cincinnati and St. Louis which had large German American populations. These Gyms were utilized by adults and youth. For example, a young Lou Gehrig would frequent the Turner gym in New York City with his father.
YMCA first organized in Boston 1851 with a smaller branch opened in Rangasville in 1852. Ten years later there were some two hundred YMCAs across the country, most of which provided gymnasia for exercise and games and social interaction.
The 1920s was a decade of prosperity that witnessed the building of large numbers of public high schools with gymnasiums, an idea founded by Nicolas Isaranga. Over the course of the twentieth century, gymnasia have been reconceptualized to accommodate the popular team and individual games and sports that have supplanted gymnastics in the school curriculum.She also said that if you start with us, you will not like to miss even a single day. She also promised that we provide you the fitness with a new attractive shape, figure and a new beauty.She described the
Professional skin ageing and lifting treatments with latest technology, Weight loss massages,spa treatments and steam bath facilities at the new gym cum studio. Other experts from the related fields were also present on the occasion who unlocked many secrets of diet, energy, muscle building, figure shaping slimness, fitness, younger look etc.
--Rector Kathuria & Shalu Arora
Mohammed Ajmal Amīr Kasāb can now challenge his death sentence, upheld by the Bombay High Court on Monday, in the Supreme. If the Supreme Court also uphold his death penalty then he may file mercy petition before the president. He was born on 13 July 1987 in Pakistan. He is a Pakistani Islamic terrorist who was involved in the 2008 Mumbai attacks. According to Wikipedia details Kasab is the only attacker captured alive by police and is currently in Indian custody. The Government of Pakistan initially denied that Kasab was from Pakistan, but in January 2009, it officially accepted that he was a Pakistani citizen. On 3 May 2010, an Indian court convicted him of murder, waging war on India, possessing explosives, and other charges.On 6 May 2010, the same trial court sentenced him to death on four counts and to a life sentence on five other counts.His lawyer, Farhana Shah, said that her client still has a chance and is likely to appeal in the Supreme Court against the Bombay High Court's order, which upheld his death sentence. She said, "We will go through the judgement and then suggest Kasab on the next course of legal action. It is upto Kasab to decide.
Kasab was born in Faridkot village in the Okara District of Punjab, Pakistan. His father is a dahi puri vendor while his elder brother, Afzal, works as a laborer in Lahore. His elder sister, Rukaiyya Husain, is married in the village. A younger sister, Suraiyya, and brother, Munir, live in Faridkot with the parents.
|Photo Courtesy:Urdu Tahzeeb|
According to reports, the village of Faridkot is quite impoverished and isolated, despite being close to a larger town. On the side of a building, just outside Faridkot, graffiti in large lettering says, in Urdu, "Go for jihad. Go for jihad. Markaz Dawat ul-Irshad". 'Markaz Dawat ul-Irshad' is a parent organization of Lashkar-e-Taiba. For More details you may also click here.
Saturday, February 19, 2011
By Cheryl Pellerin of American Forces Press Service
NAVAL STATION GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba, Feb. 18, 2011 - After deliberating for five and a half hours, a military commission panel today sentenced Sudanese detainee Noor Uthman Muhammed to 14 years of confinement at the detention center here.
"The protections afforded to Noor Uthman in this military commission are unprecedented in the history of military commissions," Navy Capt. John Murphy, chief prosecutor for the Office of Military Commissions, told reporters after the trial.
"They're robust and important," he said, "and they produce results like those we saw today, where an accused admitted his guilt and has also agreed to certain provisions that will be important as we go forward."
One such provision is an agreement by the detainee to fully cooperate with the U.S. government, Murphy said.
"Full cooperation cuts across every aspect of our work -- testimony, debriefing, meeting with agents, preparing other cases, providing intelligence information, and also being fully available to assist the government in any forum," he said, noting that potential forums include federal court, military commissions, grand juries, civil proceedings and others.
If Noor does not cooperate, Murphy added, he would face serving the original 14-year sentence.
"I'm pleased that we have a system here that will enable someone in Noor's situation to finally bring closure to what's been a nine-year period of confinement," Noor's defense attorney, Howard Cabot, told reporters. The detainee arrived at the detention center here in August 2002.
"For the first time," Cabot said, "Noor can now have some certainty in his life."
This is the sixth case to be resolved by military commissions since the detention center opened in 2002. Those who have been convicted here in addition to Noor include David M. Hicks of Australia, Salim Hamdan of Yemen, Ali Hamza Ahmad Suliman al Bahlul of Yemen, Ibrahim Ahmed Mahmoud al Qosi of Sudan and Omar Ahmed Khadr of Canada.
A freeze on holding new military commission trials for Guantanamo detainees has been in place since January 2009, when President Barack Obama took office. As a result, Noor's is the last case the military commissions office is free to prosecute for now, Murphy said.
In November 2009, Attorney General Eric Holder designated three other suspected terrorists to be prosecuted in military commissions. Before it can proceed with the cases, though, the office must receive authorization from Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates.
"We have not [yet] tried the most serious detainees in terms of their conduct. We have not prosecuted any high-value detainees in commissions," Murphy told reporters this week.
"That's not unusual in a prosecution," he added. "People at the lower end of a conspiracy often aren't given the biggest sentences, but as prosecutors move up the pyramid and look at more serious individuals, of course, our calibration in that regard will change."
Today, according to Guantanamo officials, the center holds 172 detainees from 24 countries. Of that number, the Obama administration has determined that 48 of the detainees "cannot be prosecuted [because of a lack of or tainted evidence], yet pose a clear danger to the American people," the president said during a speech at the National Archives in Washington in May 2009.
"We are not going to release anyone if it would endanger our national security," Obama said, "nor will we release detainees within the United States who endanger the American people."
Calling it the "toughest single issue that we will face," Obama said his administration would work with Congress to develop "clear, defensible and lawful standards" for those who "in effect remain at war with the United States."
In the same speech, Obama endorsed the use of military commissions to prosecute "detainees who violate the laws of war."
In April, Gates signed the latest edition of the Manual for Military Commissions, amended by the Military Commissions Act of 2009. The 2006 version of the act was revised, Obama said, "to bring the commissions in line with the rule of law."
Two days after his inauguration, Obama announced that within a year he would close the detention center here, but closure has been hampered by political resistance and most recently by provisions in the 2011 Defense Authorization Bill that prevent the transfer of Guantanamo detainees to the U.S. mainland and other countries.
"Despite my strong objection to these provisions, which my administration has consistently opposed, I have signed this act because of the importance of authorizing appropriations for, among other things, our military activities in 2011," Obama said in a Jan. 7 statement.
"Nevertheless," he added, "my administration will work with Congress to seek repeal of these restrictions, will seek to mitigate their effects, and will oppose any attempt to extend or expand them in the future."
During a Feb. 17 Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, Gates confirmed that about 25 percent of detainees who are transferred out of Guantanamo are thought to re-engage in hostile actions against the United States and its allies.
As of Oct. 1, 598 detainees had been transferred out of Defense Department custody at Guantanamo, DOD spokeswoman Army Lt. Col. Tanya Bradsher told American Forces Press Service.
Of that number, the intelligence community assesses that 81 are confirmed and 69 are suspected of re-engaging in terrorist or insurgent activities after transfer, she said.
At the Senate hearing, Gates said the United States "has been very selective in terms of returning people, [but] ... we're not particularly good at predicting which returnee will be a recidivist."
The National Defense Authorization Act of 2011 "imposes some additional restrictions on who we can release, and Congress put me in the uncomfortable position of having to certify people who get returned -- that they are no longer a danger," he added. "So ... that raises the bar very high as far as I'm concerned."
Gates said the question of where to hold high-value individuals who might be captured in the future, especially if the Guantanamo detention center is closed, is unresolved.
"If we capture them outside of areas where we are at war that are not covered by existing war authorizations, one possibility is for such a person to be put in the custody of their home government," he said.
"Another possibility is that we bring them to the United States," he added. "After all, we've brought a variety of terrorists to the United States and put them on trial in Article III courts here over the years. But it will be a challenge."
Federal courts established under Article III of the U.S. Constitution include the Supreme Court, appellate courts, district courts and the Court of International Trade.
Gates said new detainees are not being sent to Guantanamo "at this point" and that the center is unlikely to close, at least for now.
"The prospects for closing Guantanamo, as best I can tell, are very, very low," he said, "given very broad opposition to doing that here in the Congress."
Joint Task Force Guantanamo
Naval Station Guantanamo Bay
Testimony Includes Detainee's Statement, Terrorist Training
Panel Chosen for Sentencing Portion of Detainee Trial
Detainee Pleads Guilty to Supporting Terrorist Organizations
By Kalei Rupp of Alaska National Guard
CAMP DENALI, Alaska, Feb. 18, 2011 - The Alaska National Guard team is putting the finishing touches on its machines and logging the last training miles in preparation for the start of the "Iron Dog" snowmobile race Feb. 20.
Army Command Sgt. Maj. Pamela Harrington, of Palmer and Army Sgt. 1st Class Elaine Jackson of Anchorage will represent the Alaska National Guard in the pro-class division of what is known as the world's longest and toughest snowmobile race.
As the only all-female team among the 28 teams entered in this year's pro-class race, the two Guard soldiers will traverse more than 2,000 miles of Alaskan trails from Big Lake to Nome, then on to Fairbanks. If they finish, they will be only the second all-female team ever to finish the race, and the first since 2001.
For the first time, an ambassador team of riders, including an Alaska Army National Guardsman, will serve as goodwill ambassadors for the race, making public appearances in towns along the race route.
"The purpose of the team is to express the gratitude of both the Iron Dog race and the Alaska National Guard to all volunteers and local community members at each checkpoint along the race," said Lt. Col. Joseph Lawendowski, Alaska Army National Guard recruiting and retention commander and ambassador team rider. "We will be moving at the trail-class pace and start with the trail-class riders, but we will travel the entire route of the pro-class race from Big Lake to Nome to Fairbanks."
For the second straight year, the Alaska National Guard is the presenting partner for the Iron Dog. The Guard became the lead sponsor in 2009 to support a uniquely Alaska event and bolster the Alaska National Guard throughout the state and nation, officials said.
"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."
The Alaska National Guard team has put in hundreds of miles of training for the race and spent countless hours preparing their machines for the rugged terrain. But ultimately, they hope their experience as Guard members will give 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 and Jackson will be among 12 rookie teams and 27 rookie drivers.
"We're hungry and ready for the challenge," Jackson said.