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Col. Matthew W. McFarlane assumed command of the 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division from outgoing commander Col. Morris T. Goins during a change of command ceremony held Dec. 5 at Hangar One, here.

The event was attended by many dignitaries and family members from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson including the commander of Alaskan Command, Air Force Lt. Gen. Stephen L. Hoog and U.S. Army Alaska commander, Maj. Gen. Michael X. Garrett.

Avoiding avalanches is all about awareness.

“You gotta have your head in the game,” advised avalanche expert Blaine Smith, a trails planner for Alaska State Parks.

A former mountain guide, Smith stopped by the Eagle River Nature Center on Dec. 9 to give a seminar on avalanche safety basics. The most important thing to remember, he said, is to learn what avalanche-prone areas look like.

“There’s certain terrain that avalanches happen in,” he said.

Stryker Brigade soldiers from the U.S. Army's 5th Squadron, 1st Calvary Regiment stationed at Fort Wainwright will be conducting training on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson through Dec. 12, the Army announced this week.

Small arms fire, large caliber weapons and some explosions may be heard in areas near the base while training occurs.

Questions or concerns about the training may be directed to the U.S. Army's Pubilc Affairs Office at (907) 384-1542.

On Monday, the Chugiak-Eagle River Chamber announced the winners of the 2012 Merry Merchant Munch contest, which was held Nov. 31-Dec. 1 in Eagle River. A record 55 businesses participated in this year’s event. The following businesses were selected as award-winning participants:


Hometown Holiday – Pizza Man

Holiday Elegance – Alaska USA Federal Credit Union

Classic Christmas – Northrim Bank

Spirit of the Season – Credit Union 1

Merriest Merchant – Alyeska Title

Holiday Dreams – Vibe Salon

Instead of sitting down to a nice Thanksgiving meal, Todd Tarner spent the day more than 4,000 miles from his Eagle River home caring for hundreds of people left homeless by Hurricane Sandy.

Tarner and fellow Eagle River resident Donna Kenison were two of nine members of the Alaska-1 Disaster Medical Assistance Team (AK-1 DMAT) that deployed to Long Island for about two weeks last month.

The team was tasked with helping provide medical support for about 600 people in a general population shelter and dozens more with special needs.

Chugiak High has some serious musical talent.

Six Mustangs earned first chair honors at the All State Music Festival on Nov. 17.

In band, Catherine Goolsby (flute), Dane Breitung (alto saxophone), David Stockhouse (tenor saxophone), Caleb Huntington (baritone saxophone) and Mark Landon (trumpet) were first chair. Kennedy Kruchoski earned first chair honors as alto II in the treble choir.

Landon’s third straight festival was just as special as the previous two.

“It was still amazing,” he said.

Students at Willow Creek Elementary will be a little warmer this holiday season — and they have the Birchwood ABC student council to thank.

Birchwood recently held a clothing drive and donated coats, gloves, hats, scarves and snow pants to Willow Creek on Friday, Nov. 30.

The clothing drive is reflective of principal Tim Godfrey’s focus on character building.

“I think that’s very important,” he said. “We’re trying to focus on the nature of generosity and giving.”

Local Anchorage School District schools saw a boost this year, as enrollment is up at each level throughout Chugiak-Eagle River.

Excluding Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, eight of the 12 local schools saw increases from the 2011-12 school year — with total enrollment up at the elementary, middle and high schools.

Eagle River High saw the largest increase, adding nearly 60 students from its total of 835 that were enrolled as of September 2011.

“We’ve been consistently just over 900 for most of the fall,” said principal Marty Lang.

In the December 2012/January 2013 issue of Alaska magazine, a story on page 64 called “Hunting the Mighty Cockle” included an error.

That story incorrectly suggested that cockles, an Alaskan shellfish, can be harvested and eaten based on the time of year. It stated “it is only safe to dig cockles in the late fall and winter, when the water temperature is too cold to allow blooming of the algae that cause paralysis shellfish poisoning.”

Eagle River’s Suellyn Wright Novak, a longtime advocate for veterans issues who currently serves as executive director of the Alaska Veterans Museum, was awarded the Governor’s Veterans Advocacy Award during a ceremony on Veterans Day.

Rep. Anna Fairclough, of Eagle River, nominated Novak for the award. In her nomination letter, Fairclough cited Novak’s years of service to the Veterans community.