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Army Airlifting Food to Alaska Dogs

November 27, 1998

FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) _ The Army is stepping in to airlift tons of fish to isolated communities so that villagers can feed the dogs that do much of the hauling and other heavy work there, though bad weather has slowed the effort.

A poor salmon run along the Yukon River watershed left supplies short in 13 isolated Indian villages, spread across a 400-mile area north of Fairbanks in the sub-Arctic.

Salmon was donated from a Valdez hatchery, and an Anchorage processor flash-froze the supplies, about 200,000 pounds worth. Army officials say that besides helping the huskies and the villagers, Operation Fish-Ex is good training for the troops.

Bad weather, however, has stymied efforts. Poor visibility forced the helicopters to turn back Monday and Tuesday, and on Wednesday the craft couldn’t get off the ground. Also, the region only gets about four hours of daylight this time of year.

``This is the area we can’t get past,″ said Maj. Jerry Bastian, pointing to a map showing where the Yukon River nears a cluster of foothills about 3,000 feet in elevation. ``Anytime the weather turns us around, we still go out and try to do the mission.″

The Army plans to resume the supply flights next week.

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