Sullivan Honors Alaskan of the Week: Glen Hanson

WASHINGTON, DC — U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK) spoke yesterday on the Senate floor in recognition of Glen Hanson, a longtime volunteer with the Iditarod Air Force who is currently assisting with the logistics of the 45th Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. Hanson was recognized as part of Senator Sullivan’s series, “Alaskan of the Week.”

The following is the statement submitted to the Congressional Record:


Mr. President, I have been coming down to the floor for the past several months recognizing Alaskans who make our State great and our country better for all of us. I really enjoy doing this because it gives me an opportunity to share the excellent work my citizens are doing in their communities. It also gives me a few minutes to highlight to all my colleagues here in the Senate--and to some of those Americans who might be watching at home--to talk a little bit more about the unique place I call home and am honored to serve and represent in the Senate.

This week, I would like to honor pilot Glen Hanson, who is right now somewhere flying above racing sled dogs in the far north in Alaska, literally as we speak.

Before I get to how he is helping Alaskans and how he is this week's Alaskan of the Week, let me take you back through a remarkable bit of history that happened in Nome, AK, in 1925, when a diphtheria serum was desperately needed for the children in Nome. The nearest batch of serum was 1,000 miles away in Anchorage, AK. There weren't--and still aren't--any roads that connect Nome to Anchorage. There was very challenging winter weather during this time, so no airplanes could fly. In fact, the nearest train station was over 700 miles away from Nome, so people traveled mostly by dog sled.

On the night of January 27, 1925, musher “Wild Bill” Shannon tied a 20-pound package of serum wrapped in protective fur around his sled. He and his nine dogs started the journey called then the “Great Race of Mercy” across the frozen Alaska land. Miles later, he met up with another racer and another team of dogs, and the relay continued all across Alaska, over 1,000 miles--20 mushers and 150 sled dogs--through some of the world's most rugged terrain and some of the world's most brutal weather. In fact, right now in parts of Alaska where the Iditarod is happening, it is 40 to 50 below zero.

That original race, the Great Race of Mercy, began to be reenacted, with some twists, in 1973 and continues today. In fact, it is going on right now, the Iditarod, the Last Great Race, in my great State. People from all across the world come to participate in it and come to watch it. It is the quintessential Alaskan event that involves the work of hundreds of Alaskans, lodge owners, veterinarians, dogs, dog handlers, volunteers, pilots--hundreds, thousands.

Alaska, as you might know, is home to more veterans per capita than any other State, but we are also home to more pilots per capita than any other State. Our pilots are a vital part of our economy and transportation, and they are a vital part of the Iditarod. In fact, the race couldn't exist without them.

Every year, more than a dozen volunteer pilots load their planes for the Iditarod race with more than 100,000 pounds of dog food, hundreds of bales of hay, and lumber for tents. They fly the veterinarians, the judges, the dog handlers, and so many of the volunteers out to the checkpoints hundreds of miles away. We call them the Iditarod Air Force, and every one of them deserves recognition.

That gets me back to Anchorage resident Glen Hanson, who is our Alaskan of the Week. Glen, along with his brother Bert, is tied among this year's pilots as the longest serving volunteer in the Iditarod Air Force. He began volunteering for the Last Great Race--the Iditarod Air Force--in 1984. Glen has since put in roughly 1,500 hours of volunteer time, making sure that the Last Great Race continues and that the dogs and the mushers are taken care of--taken care of right now in 40 to 50 below zero, as this race is going on.

This year, Glen won the Alaska Air Carriers Association Iditarod Humanitarian Service Award. Upon receiving it, the Air Carriers Association wrote to Glen:

“You are obviously an accomplished pilot held in high regard by your peers. While there are many volunteers working to make the race possible, you consistently go above and beyond the call of duty. You are always quietly willing to take every assignment, no matter how unglamorous or uncomfortable. You step up time after time to fly in the challenging air strips to ensure that the musher supplies and race personnel are available to keep the race safe.”

Thank you, Glen, for all you do to keep our great Alaska history alive. And thanks to all the pilots in the Iditarod Air Force this year and so many of the other volunteers who keep everybody safe--and are doing it right now during this year's Iditarod. And to all the mushers and these great dogs, good luck. Everyone involved makes this truly the last great race in America.

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