• 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

  • Crime

    Man sought by Anchorage police after firing weapon in front of officers

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on May 24, 10:56

    Police have obtained an arrest warrant for a 25-year-old man who fired a handgun in front of APD officers early Sunday morning. William Jarrett IV has been a convicted felon since 2008 and “therefore is not allowed to either be in possession of a firearm or reside in a home where firearms are located,” according to […]

  • Crime

    Tok man arrested after shooting into sporting goods store

    by Associated Press on May 24, 10:39

    A Tok man has been jailed after troopers say he fired a gun into a sporting goods store while his wife was locked inside. The Daily News-Miner reports (http://bit.ly/1cd6DJ3 ) that Alaska State Troopers responded to calls about a disturbance at Three Bears Outpost in Tok and found a 59-year-old man leaving the area. Officials […]

  • Politics

    Alaska lawmakers hint budget deal is close

    by Dave Leval on May 23, 20:54

    The Alaska House reconvened in Anchorage Saturday for the third day of its second special session. It turned out to be a light lineup; the House session wrapped up after about 25 minutes. The big issue facing Alaska lawmakers is still passing a fully funded budget. They have until June 1 to reach a deal; otherwise, […]

  • News

    Alaska firefighters get extra help from Lower 48

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on May 23, 20:17

    Due to high fire danger around the state, extra firefighting resources from the Lower 48 are now joining the forces in Alaska. Sixteen smoke jumpers from Boise, Idaho are now going through orientation before being assigned to a suppression effort. Jet-propelled tankers — which can carry 3,000 gallons of retardant — arrived Friday to bolster […]

  • Weather

    Weekend weather forecast, May 23

    by Brett Shepard on May 23, 18:21

    Southcentral Mostly cloudy skies tonight and tomorrow with scattered rain showers. Southeast Mostly to partly cloudy skies tonight and tomorrow. Interior Sunny skies Sunday — but not quite as warm. North Slope Mostly to partly sunny skies Sunday. Western Alaska Showers along the coast with dry conditions further inland. Southwest Alaska Mostly cloudy skies with […]

  • News

    17-year-old severely injured after falling 70 feet into Port Valdez

    by Associated Press on May 23, 17:41

    Valdez police are reporting that a 17-year old girl has fallen 70 feet off a cliff into Port Valdez. Police were called to the scene just after 6:30 on Friday night. The teenager had fallen off a cliff near Dock Point Trail and suffered life threatening injuries. Police say the young woman’s friends had rescued […]

  • News

    Memorial day campers head out early to claim space at local campgrounds

    by Dave Leval on May 22, 22:46

    As Memorial Day weekend kicks off, some campers headed out early Friday to stake their claim on the best sites. Phil Fields found himself in trouble as he relaxed with his daughter at the Bird Creek Campground — he was losing to her in a game of Battleship. They arrived at 9:30 a.m. to start their […]

  • News

    FOUND: Anchorage police seeking missing 84 year old woman

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on May 22, 22:16

    Updated 10:54 p.m., May 22 Anchorage police say Joyce Scott has been found safe and returned home to her family. Earlier Anchorage police are asking for the public’s help in finding a missing woman diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Joyce Scott, 84, was last seen at 8 p.m. Friday in the DeArmoun Road and New Seward Highway […]