Moose Recce and other Alaskan sports

Alaska1My wife was a big cross county skier when we lived in Alaska. Luckily Anchorage had an extensive series of trails.  So every winter, she and a friend would load the dogs — hers a Malamute, ours a Samoyed– into the car and drive to the local park where they could pick up the trails.  One day as they were skiing, the dogs suddenly took off and ran ahead of them.  As they crested the top of the hill they could see two brown figures in the distance –a mother moose and her calf.   They corralled  the dogs and quickly returned to the car.   You did not go near a mother moose and her calf.

When I arrived at Elmendorf, they gave us a briefing on this subject.   The point was that when you saw a calf his mom would be nearby.  Then they told the story of an Air Force man who had stopped to see a calf along the road and made the mistake of leaving his WV bug to get closer.  He barely made it back into the car, which the mom demolished.

Moose were a fact of life in Alaska.  We often had them in the park behind our home.   Our back yard was fenced so we felt fairly safe as they browsed in the park and occasionally leaned over the fence and looked into our yard.  However, as soon as we could see them in the park, Niki, our Samoyed, came inside for her own protection.

Niki 1976

Niki was either fearless, or stupid, as she barked and barked at them — she also barked and barked at snowflakes coming down.   She was a beautiful, but not too bright a dog.   When we left Alaska, I was initially assigned to go to the fighter tactics school at Nellis AFB near Las Vegas, so Niki went to live with a new family.   Later my assignment was changed to teach at the Air Force Academy, where Niki would have been right at home in the mountains.  She was our last dog, as with moving frequently in the Air Force it was too hard to ship pets.   udn35

Often when we flew we engaged in a sport called “Moose Recce.”  The object was to fly the F4 low  at about 1,000 feet down valleys and look for Moose.  That way when members of the flight went hunting they knew where the moose could be found.   A variation on this sport was whale recce where we flew low over the inlets in search of whales.   The best time to engage in this was when we flew two ship training missions.  Each F4 flew an extended tactical formation while looking for game. Usually this was done on the way to sit alert at one of the remote sites.  If this sounds as if it was a big game, it probably was.  Still all flying training served a purpose, even Moose Recce, which sharpened not only your stick and rudder skills, but challenged your eyes to find a small target on the ground against an often dark background.   Moose Recce was unique to Alaska and I never encountered it elsewhere.   Then again where else did I encounter Moose?




About jenorv

John E. Norvell is a retired Air Force Lt Colonel, decorated air combat veteran of the Vietnam War, and former Assistant Professor of American and Military History at the U.S. Air Force Academy. He has written freelance for the Washington Post, the Middle Tennessee Journal of Genealogy and History, and for several newspapers around the country.
This entry was posted in 43 TFS, Alaska, Alaskan Air Command, Alaskan glaciers, American History, Anchorage, Anchorage Alaska, F-4 Phantom II, F4 Phantom II, F4 PhantomII, Norvell Family History and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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