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Contact: Katherine Belcher, (907) 683-9583
Soldiers from the 5th Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment overcame wildlife encounters, inclement weather and terrain, reaching an elevation of nearly 4,000 feet during a 26-mile ruck march on the Denali Park Road on June 8, 2018.
This is the second time soldiers from Fort Wainwright in Fairbanks, AK, participated in a march along the one and only road in Denali National Park and Preserve. The first was in July 2017 and began at the Mountain Vista Rest Stop with a turnaround point just east of the Teklanika Rest Stop. This year’s trek covered the distance between Toklat (mile 53) and the Eielson Visitor Center (mile 66) and back.
Park visitors on transit buses and narrated bus tours snapped pictures of not only caribou, moose and grizzly bears, but also soldiers during their march and on rest breaks. They greeted the troops upon arrival at the Eielson Visitor Center, asking questions about the march and their unit, as well as thanking them for their service.
Events such as this offer soldiers a plethora of benefits—training that builds mental and physical toughness, strengthening unit cohesion and experiencing some of the most beautiful terrain in Alaska and the country.
There is a long tradition of shared service between our nation’s military and national parks. The original caretakers of the earliest parks, such as Yellowstone, were soldiers. Since 1933, the National Park Service has cared for great battlefields of the Revolutionary and Civil Wars as parks and monuments. During World War II, several national parks served as training and testing centers, or recreation sites—Denali was one such recreation site.
Denali remains an important training ground for the U.S. Army Alaska Northern Warfare Training Center, which tests arctic equipment and skills. Military teams have made more than 16 climbing expeditions to the summit since 1980.
Each year, Fort Wainwright’s 52nd Aviation Regiment delivers thousands of pounds of supplies to base camp in support of mountaineering operations. Military units assist with high altitude rescues and the Alaska Air National Guard assists with rescues in remote areas of the park. The Alaska District Veterinary Command helps to care for the Denali’s canine rangers in exchange for cold weather animal care experience with kennels staff.
Soldiers in Alaska typically receive tremendous support from their communities, but some never experience the extraordinary national parks in their backyards. Service members come from a diverse cross-section of society and this event provides an incredible opportunity to experience the wonder of nature, learn about the connection between the U.S. military and national parks and develop an appreciation for the importance of preserving and protecting many of the country’s natural and cultural resources.
Last updated: August 9, 2018