• Forecast
  • News Tip
  • Categories
Temperature Precipitation
Estimated read time
2m 37s

Arctic edge: Battling cold

By Bonney Bowman Photojournalist: Rick Rysso - 10:52 PM July 30, 2014

Serving in the cold doesn’t just include the temperature.

A summer day on a glacier can feel like winter, but if that’s where Alaska soldiers are called to fight, they have to be ready.

That’s where the Northern Warfare Training Center in Black Rapids excels, training soldiers for every mission.

West Point Military Academy Cadet Jeff Steiner is one of the soldiers taking part in glacier training.

He says he’s surprised by the rapid temperature change from the ground to the glacier.

“We put on cramp-ons and our harnesses and learned how to walk around on the ice which I thought, sounds kind of self-explanatory, but it’s a little harder than it seems,” Steiner said.

The ice becomes a classroom and the soldiers, students, but the lesson is potentially life-saving.

They form rope teams, the best defense against some of the glacier’s deadly hidden dangers.

“Glaciers have crevasses and a few other obstacles or other dangerous areas that we wanted them to be able to navigate safely,” said training officer Capt. Justin Lynch.

A crevasse is easily concealed by a snow bridge, but if the soldiers walk on one, they could fall through.

“You look down and you thought you were standing on ground, just like normal, but you’re actually standing on hundreds of feet of ice most likely, so looking down and not being able to see the bottom was a little eerie,” Steiner said.

They practice a fall and a rescue, ready to react if it ever happens for real.

The training then moves off the ice and into a glacier-fed river.

“I took the temperature earlier. It was about 42 degrees, so it’s going to teach them how to remain a little bit more calm under that temperature change as soon as they get hit,” said training specialist Karl Slingerland.

The soldiers get the feel of the river with a shallow crossing alone and as a team.

Then they have to cross in a deep section of river.

“They have a one-rope bridge, basically from one river bank to the other river bank and then they’re hooked in, belayed from either side in case something does happen,” Slingerland said.

It’s an effective way to move a whole unit across the watery obstacle, but it’s not easy.

Whether it’s frozen or fast-moving water, it’s cold and now the soldiers are prepared to handle it.

“We don’t get to pick where our nation needs us. We’re going to go serve anywhere that the country needs us to,” Lynch said.

Steiner says when he graduates from West Point, he hopes to come back to Alaska and put the skills he learned here to good use.

“I think this is some of the best training I’ll really ever receive,” Steiner said. “This is going to be one of the top five experiences of my life. It’s really been amazing.”

The Northern Warfare instructors hold classes year-round, from mountaineering in the summer to extreme cold survival in the winter.

Around 1,200 soldiers go through the various courses each year.

They’re then expected to take that knowledge back to their units and use it on missions.

Latest Stories

  • Former HS coach accused of indecent exposure

    by KTVA Web Staff on Jun 28, 17:09

    A former assistant coach at Palmer High School is facing charges of indecent exposure. Shane Southwick resigned his position as assistant basketball coach at the end of the season, according to a spokesperson for the Mat-Su School District. School officials also said the incident he’s accused of happened after he resigned and did not involve any district […]

  • APD investigating fatal downtown stabbing

    by KTVA Web Staff on Jun 28, 17:01

    Anchorage Police are investigating a homicide downtown. Around 4:15, officers were called to the scene of a stabbing at 4th and Karluk. APD confirms the victim in the stabbing succumbed to their injuries. The victim has not been identified. Police are searching for the suspect. While the search is underway, APD is asking motorists to […]

  • News

    Video of Florida cop’s encounter with man over jaywalking goes viral

    by CBS News on Jun 28, 16:45

    JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Moments after being stopped by Jacksonville Sheriff’s Deputy Jack Bolen for allegedly jaywalking, 21-year-old Devonte Shipman started to record the incident. The interaction happened a week ago, and Shipman believes it was about more than a jaywalking citation. I was just stopped for being black and walking, that’s how I feel,” Shipman […]

  • Lifestyle

    New mom’s health scare shines light on blood clot condition

    by CBS News on Jun 28, 16:31

    One new mom wants to warn others about the risk of blood clots after a health scare landed her in the hospital this past weekend. Kate Bilo, a meteorologist with CBS3 in Philadelphia, shared a post on Facebook this week letting friends and viewers know that doctors had found numerous life-threatening blood clots in her […]

  • Pregnant mom says she fatally shot boyfriend in YouTube stunt gone wrong

    by CBS News/Associated Press on Jun 28, 16:23

    HALSTAD, Minn. — A Minnesota woman charged in the fatal shooting of her boyfriend told authorities it was a video stunt gone wrong. Monalisa Perez, of Halstad, was charged Wednesday with second-degree manslaughter in the death of Pedro Ruiz III. The family told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune the couple has a young child and that Perez […]

  • Weather

    ‘Big Bang Theory’ star’s home burns down in California wildfire

    by CBS News/Associated Press on Jun 28, 16:20

    SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. — The home of “Big Bang Theory” star Johnny Galecki has been destroyed in a wildfire in California. Nicole Perna, a spokeswoman for the 42-year-old actor, says his home on a ranch in the San Luis Obispo area was destroyed by the wildfire on the state’s central coast. “My heart goes […]

  • News

    DHS announces new enhanced security measures for commercial flights into U.S.

    by CBS News on Jun 28, 16:17

    The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced it is implementing new enhanced security measures for all commercial flights coming into the United States, according to a senior DHS official. DHS Secretary John Kelly made the formal announcement at an event Wednesday afternoon. “It is time we raise the global baseline of global aviation security. We […]

  • Lifestyle

    Air pollution levels considered safe can still shorten lifespans, study shows

    by CBS News on Jun 28, 16:15

    ATLANTA — A study released Wednesday shows that levels of air pollution considered safe can still shorten lifespans. The study also found that the air in Atlanta is among the worst in the country. Even on days when he can play outside, 4-year-old Reco Lovett is never far from his inhaler. At age 2, he […]