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Events in Afghanistan dominated military coverage in 2012, as a 3,500-member brigade spent much of the year in hostile territory. That group returned to Alaska in October. The year’s other big news on base came in May, when Gen. Michael Garrett took over command of the U.S. Army Alaska from Gen. Raymond Palumbo.

Here are the military stories the Star focused on in 2012:

From firefighters to Fuji Gifts, 2012 was a busy, blustery year in Chugiak-Eagle River. There were dramatic stories of survival and heartbreaking tales of loss. As always, there was one big Bear Paw, plenty of political plotting and more animal attacks than most people are comfortable or with. And the weather? It was worth talking about. For better or worse, here are the news stories that shaped our lives in Chugiak-Eagle River over the past 12 months:


Firefighters keep busy

Mitchell Kelly, a Chicago-based professional dancer and choreographer, will visit Eagle River Jan 2 and 3 to teach a master dance workshop at the Stars Dance Studio.

Kelly was a finalist on Season 8 of the Fox reality show “So You Think You Can Dance.”

Stars owner Janie Williams said space in the two-day workshop is limited. Classes offered during the workshop will include hip-hop, Jazz, lyrical, Broadway, contemporary ballet, advanced hip-hop and improv/creative movements. Individual classes can be taken for $20 each or $140 for the entire two-day workshop.

The holiday season offers a chance to spend time with friends and family, exchange gifts and take a break from our hectic schedules.

It’s also a time of increased risk for fires.

With a full house of guests, it’s easy to leave the kitchen unattended, said James Gray, fire marshal for the Anchorage Fire Department. But, he said, people need to be cognizant of what they’re cooking.

“Don’t forget about what you’ve got on the stove,” Gray said.

Dear Santa,

I am a first grader in Homestead. My birthday is on May 17. I hope you have a good Christmas.




Hi Santa,

My name is Ashley. I am a kid from Homestead and this is what I want — a bag full of make-up and high heel shoes.




Hello Santa,

I have never moved a behavior card! My name is Nolan. I’m 7. I would like a spy watch please.




Dear Santa,

Need to know something about the Army in Alaska? For nearly four decades, there’s been one sure way to find an answer:

Just ask Chuck.

That won’t be the case for long. After nearly 49 years with the Army, Charles “Chuck” Canterbury is retiring from his position as the U.S. Army Alaska’s Media Relations Officer — a position he’s held for the past 38 years.

“It’s been quite a run,” said Canterbury, 73, during a retirement ceremony held Dec. 13 on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.

The 25-year-old Eagle River man charged in a 2010 murder case involving his childhood friend is back in jail on a probation violation — his second in six months.

Anchorage police said Kennith “Kenny” Upton, 25, ran afoul of an alcohol ban and then struggled with the police officers who arrested him on Dec. 8.

The arrest marks the latest twist in an increasingly bizarre saga.

Students and teachers at Gruening Middle School enjoy the eighth-grade class’ annual submersible remote operated vehicle (ROV) challenge for the same reason — no textbooks.

The project doesn’t require students to conduct hours of research using multiple books. However, there’s also no cheat sheet available should a problem arise.

“They can’t Google the answer how to fix it,” technology collaborator Greg Barta said. “That’s the best part. They use their brain to solve it.”

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.