By ALEX deMARBAN
Anchorage Daily News
November 29, 2006
The platoon sergeant was crushed, in part because his planned September sheep hunt near Tok wouldn't happen, said Heather, his wife and hunting partner.
"All talk of the hunt stopped," Heather said by phone from Fort Wainwright. "It was like his whole demeanor changed."
Thanks to a recent state Board of Game decision, the couple can track sheep after all.
The board, meeting earlier this month, created an exemption for Alaska soldiers who won drawing permits but had deployed to the Middle East before using them. Instead of losing the permit, soldiers serving in combat zones can hunt with it after returning to Alaska.
The Game Board also agreed to let deployed soldiers transfer subsistence hunting permits to alternate hunters back home in Alaska. Those hunters can use the Tier II permit to provide meat for hunters' families, said board member Cliff Judkins.
In doing so, the board amended its own policy prohibiting the transfer of permits.
"We felt like we should do anything we could do to give a boost to our guys in combat," Judkins said. "We didn't think they should be penalized for being over there."
The numbers of qualifying hunters is low. Still, the decision means a lot, Heather Christianson said.
The drawing-permit exemption helps her husband and at least 13 others in the 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, she said. She acquired state lists of drawing winners, and got help from brigade officials, to figure out that number, she said.
The 3,800-member brigade received a controversial and dangerous four-month extension in Baghdad this summer and began returning to Alaska on Saturday.
Jason, a 14-year Army veteran, is scheduled to get back Wednesday. The couple plans to use the drawing permit for the sheep hunt near Tok next fall, said Heather. It's a hard-to-get permit, with only 3 percent of applicants winning.
Over the last year, Heather lost 30 pounds getting fit to keep up with her husband in the mountains. She spent about $3,000 on gear, she said. In Iraq, he studied books, maps and videos she'd sent him.
"We're not excited, we're ecstatic," she said. "We're beyond ecstatic."
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