When the 2009 Iditarod sled dog race gets under way Saturday in Anchorage, Alaska, at least six of the mushers will have connections to the U.S. military.
Among the nearly 70 competitors in the 1,150-mile race will be:
Michael Suprenant, 44, of Chugiak, Alaska. Suprenant was born in Germany while his father was stationed there, and he later served in the Air Force as an avionics technician in Hawaii, Japan, Australia and Saudi Arabia. He's now working as a contracting officer at Elmendorf AFB in Anchorage. Suprenant is making his first try at the Iditarod, although he's been planning to race since 2000.
Harry Alexie, 31, of Bethel, Alaska. Alexie, a full-time staff sergeant in the Army National Guard, is racing to help promote the Guard. It's his first Iditarod.
Blake Matray, 41, of Two Rivers, Alaska. Matray, a 1990 graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy, came to Alaska in 2000 as a pilot for the Air National Guard. He's also racing in the Iditarod for the first time.
Nancy Yoshida, 58, of Thompson, N.D. Yoshida, another rookie, is a former military spouse who settled in North Dakota in 1996, when her husband left the Army. She's also a rookie.
Laura Daugereau, 26, of Port Gamble, Wash. Daugereau lived on various bases around the world as a Navy brat. She raced in the Iditarod last year and finished 64th, becoming the first female competitor from Washington state.
Eric Rogers, 61, of Eagle River, Alaska. Rogers joined the Air Force in 1970 and served for five years; he trained as a KC-135 navigator for the Strategic Air Command. When he raced in 2006, he was the oldest rookie musher. He has a PhD in theoretical physics.
Following Saturday's ceremonial start in downtown Anchorage, the race officially gets under way on Sunday in Willow. The teams are expected to take between 10 and 17 days to arrive in Nome.
See the official Iditarod Web site here.