By Mr. Allen Shaw (Wainwright)March 14, 2014
FORT WAINWRIGHT, Alaska -- (March 14, 2014) After two solid years of planning and coordinating, more than 2,000 athletes between 11 and 18 years of age, plus coaches, cultural delegates and family members from nine circumpolar regions have descended on Interior Alaska in the spirit of cooperation and competition for the 2014 Arctic Winter Games, March 15 through 22.
Fort Wainwright Soldiers, Family members and Department of Defense civilians will join members of the local communities for a week-long celebration as hosts, participants and spectators. Many will be directly involved. "We have hundreds that have volunteered in some capacity," said Felicia Jackson, director, Plans, Mobilization, Training and Security, "Many who are working within the facilities being used by athletes; many that worked in prepping the venues being used and some who have been doing both work and volunteering to ensure that this event is the best experience for everyone." This is the third time since the AWG began in 1970 that they've been here. The Games were also in Fairbanks in 1982 and 1988.
Participating circumpolar contingents include Greenland, the most northerly of the jurisdictions competing in the Arctic Winter Games, Sapmi which is made up of the Sami indigenous peoples of northern Scandinavia, Yamal, one of the subjects (similar to a province or state) within the Russian Federation, Nuunavut, which is Canada's newest territory; created from the division of the Northwest Territories in 1999, Nunavik, the region of Quebec located above the 55th parallel, the Yukon Territories, which borders Alaska and Alberta, Canada's fourth largest province and the southernmost participant in the Games.
Jackson said, "Hosting this event is like winning the lottery. Every single Soldier and Family member that is here to see the Games this year will probably never ever have the opportunity to see them again, unless they retire and stay here for another 20 years and then it is still only a maybe. This is truly a once in a lifetime experience."
The athletes will participate in typical winter sports like alpine skiing, biathlon ski and snowshoe, cross-country skiing, curling, dog sled racing, figure skating, hockey, snowboarding and speed skating. One of the snowboard events will take place on post Monday. "The Birch Hill Ski and Snowboard Area is excited to host the AWG Slalom events," said Brooke Haley, director, Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation, "We have prepared the hill and expect to see some great competition. We are honored to be part of this community-wide event and to showcase our facilities."
Folks coming from the Fairbanks area to watch snowboarding on post may use the Lazelle entry point at the corner of the Steese Highway and Johansen Expressway. Visitor passes will not be required for snowboard event attendees to access the ski hill unless visitors plan to use an entry point other than Lazelle gate.
Folks all over the installation are playing some sort of role in the athletic events, logistics and cultural activities. Command Sgt. Maj. David Perkins, U.S. Army Garrison Fort Wainwright, command sergeant major said, "For me, supporting our community is an obligation, not a request. This community supports us better than anywhere we serve. I have been very happy to see the amount of involvement from the military Families to support this."
In addition to those who have taken time off, volunteer in the evening or weekends, the Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers program is also working to set up the schools for a variety of sporting events and cultural programs.
In addition to the typical winter sporting events and arctic-related competitions, athletes will also compete in some indoor non-seasonal events like badminton, basketball, gymnastics, indoor soccer, table tennis, volleyball and wrestling.
"I personally will be working three different shifts to help out," Perkins said, "It should be a fun time for all."
Not everyone from Fort Wainwright will be working behind the scenes. An Army Family member who will be representing Team Alaska on the basketball court is Drejean Dave, 15, son of Calvin and Staff Sgt. KaMesha Snead, Dental Activity-Alaska. Dave, a freshman at Monroe Catholic School, was handpicked to be one of two players from the Fairbanks area to play for the squad.
The whole family is understandably proud of Drejean Dave's achievements and perhaps his big sister is most proud of all. KaMesha Snead said Erisha Dave, "teared up" when she heard her younger brother was selected to participate in AWG basketball.
The opening ceremonies are slated for Sunday at 6 p.m. at the Carlson Center and competitive events are scheduled at various venues throughout the week.
Jackson said it is important for Fort Wainwright to be involved because the Army is an important part of the community. "We are one team and a solid team at that." Strong partnerships have been forged over the years and together the surrounding communities have accomplished amazing things to support one another. "The fun part is that none of us have to be trained to smile or make others welcome," she said, "that comes natural, we are the Golden Heart community after all. Let the games begin."
For more on the 2014 Arctic Winter Games, visit www.awg2014.org or call 456-2014.
Tickets for the Fairbanks 2014 Arctic Winter Games are available for purchase online through Ticketmaster.com and at the AWG retail store, 330 Barnette Street, weekdays from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. There is no fee for outdoor events.