In November I wrote about Fairbanks, Alaska, where my son is stationed at Ft. Wainwright:
The temperature has averaged between twenty and thirty below for the past two months. Two weekends ago the city had a heat wave where it actually got up to eleven degrees above zero for a couple days. But this past week it's been down to negative forty.
When Johnny was first sent there, he was happy, thinking that being in such a remote place would be an adventure. The problem is, when it's 30 below all the time, all you can really do is run from building to building. At that temperature, after as little as two minutes outside without a hat you can get frostbite of the ears.
The Army is extremely strict about making sure that nobody goes outside without a regulation hat and gloves. One member of Johnny's battalion got caught outside once without his hat, and was punished by having to do a 48 hour work detail with no sleep. Another member of his battalion had a couple of drinks and went outside wearing only a baseball cap for a few minutes, got frostbite, and had to have part of his ear chopped off.
So soldiers like Johnny, who just arrived there in November, haven't really gotten to see Alaska at all. Last night, Johnny told us that several of the guys in his squad have said that when they were younger they would see nature shows about Alaska, and would think, wow, that would be cool place to go. Now their almost universal attitude is, screw this place.
The 25th Infantry Division -- most of Ft. Wainwright -- will be deploying to Afghanistan sometime this spring, for approximately twelve months. So they'll miss the Alaskan summer. For those who get back safe and sound, they should be able to enjoy the relatively brief Alaskan summer of 2012. Then they'll get to get outside and do some hiking.
The only problem with that, as any native will tell you, is that the state bird of Alaska is the mosquito.