Ceremony held to hand over Galena Air Force station

Posted: Thursday, September 25, 2008

FAIRBANKS - The military held a ceremony to hand over the Air Force station at Galena so that it can be turned into an educational center.

The station was formed in 1943 to assist Russia's fight against Germany. It brought jobs and people to Galena on the middle Yukon River, but times have changed. On Tuesday, Air Force officials, state government representatives and more than 100 high school students attended the ceremony to hand over the station.

The Galena station was among installations ordered closed in 2005 based on recommendations by the Base Realignment and Closure Commission. The station sits on land owned by the state and formerly leased to the military.

The Galena Interior Distance Learning Academy, a boarding school now in its 12th year at the station, is a major beneficiary of the former Air Force building.

GILA serves 115 students from more than 40 Alaska villages, many of which had to close schools due to low enrollment. GILA has long hoped to expand, and the new Air Force facilities can house 350 students, principal Harry White said.

Col. Brent Johnson is with the 611th Air Support group at Elmendorf Air Force Base near Anchorage, and is the installation commander at Galena. He spoke to students gathered in an auditorium, the same students who are expected to benefit from the expansion of their school program into the former military facilities at Galena.

"Galena has represented a place where we have fought tyranny from," he told the students.

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