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AK Beat: Army's Soldier of the Year based in Alaska

Alaska Dispatch

Army’s Soldier of the Year based in Alaska: A military policeman, stationed at the Fort Wainwright Army base near Fairbanks, was named 2013 Soldier of the Year for the U.S. Army. Specialist Adam Christensen, beat out 12 other soldiers – each representing a different Army command -- for the title last week. Christensen scored highest among his competitors on physical fitness tests, military knowledge tests, and nine battle drills – conducted as part of the yearly Army-wide Best Warrior contest at Fort Lee, Va. “It means I’ve done my best to know my job,” Christensen said of his victory in an Army press release.  “I take what I do seriously and I want to be good at it. Best Warrior is a chance to have that recognized.” Staff Sgt. De Gosh Reed – an Infantry team leader with JBER’s 25th Division – also made it to the national-level competition. Reed placed third among non-commissioned officers.

Beware Turnagain Pass avalanches: Southcentral Alaska -- the area of the 49th state surrounding Anchorage where most Alaskans live -- hasn't seen much snow so far this winter, but there's enough in the mountains to kill you. That's the word from the Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center, which is reporting a number of human-triggered avalanches along the Seward Highway in the Turnagain Pass area south of Anchorage in recent days. A skier near the 3,000-foot level in the mountains above Summit Lake triggered a 20- to 30-yard-long slough on Sunday that slid about 300 yards, the center reports. That followed an incident Saturday near Turnagain Pass where another skier near 3,500 feet in the Kenai Mountains ripped out a sizable chunk of snow that slid for 1,000 feet to the valley floor below. No one was injured in either slide, but the potential risk is significant. The snow that avalanched Saturday was 16 to 18 inches deep. A hiker near Girdwood died in a significantly shallower avalanche in 1997. That deadly accident 16 years ago on the Crow Pass Trail happened during another snow-short early winter. Avalanche rangers caution that avalanche dangers above treeline are now moderate and could quickly become extreme in changing weather conditions.

Car chase leads to two collisions in Fairbanks: Alaska State Troopers said 25-year-old Henry Mason Jr., of Anchorage, was remanded to Fairbanks Correctional Facility after leading troopers on a chase that began on the Parks Highway and ended -- two collisions later -- at the intersection of Peger and Phillips Field Roads. The chase began when troopers received a phone tip about a driver running a red light and "driving poorly" on Chena Pump Road in Fairbanks. They caught up with Mason on the Parks Highway, but he did not stop, leading troopers to University Avenue where, they report, he briefly eluded them before crashing into a vehicle at the intersection with the Johansen Expressway. Mason continued on, causing a second collision at Peger Road and Phillips Field Road. The second crash resulted in injuries, though trooper report did not specify the nature of the injuries or whether they were to occupants of Mason's car or the other vehicle. Mason and a passenger fled the second accident on foot and were apprehended. Mason was found to have an outstanding arrest warrant for second-, third- and fourth-degree misconduct involving a weapon.

Invasive species take advantage of a warming Arctic: Invasive species have long been a scourge of temperate and tropical latitudes, but the cold has kept their numbers down in the Arctic. Until recently. Now sea ice is melting enough to permit the most significant carrier of invasive species -- ocean-going ships with large ballast tanks filled with water (and organisms)  -- to penetrate the once all-but-unnavigable Arctic Ocean. A recent report written by a PhD candidate researching this topic notes that Svalbard, in Europe's Arctic, faces threats in part because it has existing shipping relationships with regions from which prolific invaders hail. As a thawing arctic connects ever-increasing regions by ship, such connections are bound to proliferate.