• Forecast
  • News Tip
  • Categories
Temperature Precipitation
Estimated read time
2m 12s

Arctic edge: Conquering mountains

By Bonney Bowman Photojournalist: Rick Rysso - 10:31 PM July 29, 2014

Soldiers come to Alaska from all over the country and once they get here, they have to learn how to survive in our often harsh and unforgiving climate.

That’s where the Northern Warfare Training Center in Black Rapids comes in.

The motto at the Army training center is “battling cold and conquering mountains.”

But to climb a mountain, you have to start from the bottom.

The soldiers start on a small hill, mastering the basics of mountaineering, including learning to belay, rappel, set up safety anchors and tie knots. Once they know the basics, the soldiers move on to more daunting challenges.

Spc. Reiner Huesler was one of the first to cross a deep gorge on a single rope bridge. He didn’t always feel comfortable swinging through empty air, he said.

“I knew I could trust the gear, but the first time we did it when we were practicing I was kind of iffy. I was kind of like, I know people have done it, but until I do it myself I don’t really want to trust it,” Huesler said.

The exercise doesn’t just test the soldiers’ courage. It shows them how to overcome obstacles.

“If you have a huge ravine you need to get people across, we can set up the near and far anchors, which will allow any number of people to cross that open ravine,” said Lt. Matthew Mitchell. “You can’t say ‘well, the mountains are in our way, we can’t accomplish our mission.’”

They’re practical skills, learned in the Alaskan wilderness and put to use on the battlefield.

“This area is very familiar to certain regions in Afghanistan — mountainous, extreme temperature swings,” said training center commander Lt. Col. Mark Adams.

Alaskan soldiers also have to be ready to deploy to countries in the Pacific, where similar challenges await.

“All throughout the Ring of Fire and throughout the Pacific AOR [Area of Responsibility] there’s lots of different terrain that in order to accomplish and successfully defeat any enemy within their hometown, we now know that we’re capable of operating in that area,” Mitchell said.

“This makes them better Arctic soldiers because it tests their mettle, their intestinal fortitude,” Adams said. “We put them in some very unique and challenging situations that stresses them, not only physically but mentally.”

The training course hasn’t just given him the tools he needs, Huesler said. It’s built a new level of trust in his platoon.

“Definitely something that we can build upon. Made us better as a unit, made us stronger,” he said. “Gives us more flexibility to go on, train, be prepared for whatever mission would come our way.”

Latest Stories

  • News

    Body of 2-year-old boy found after search near Bathing Beauty Pond

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Jun 25, 11:05

    The search for a 2-year-old boy missing at the Bathing Beauty Pond ended when search teams found him unresponsive in the water, according to an Alaska State Trooper dispatch. Troopers say the toddler was reported missing at 1:33 p.m. Friday after he “apparently wandered down a heavily wooded path” near the pond off the Richardson […]

  • Lifestyle

    Denali Park bear incidents leave one injured, close trails and parking lots

    by Megan Edge on Jun 24, 21:16

    Two bear incidents at Denali National Park this week have led park officials to close parking lots and trails. According to a park release, a small, subadult brown bear charged vehicles by the Primrose area and charged visitors near the Savage River in the Denali Park Road area. Then, on Wednesday, the same bear charged […]

  • Politics

    Judge denies attempt to prolong Medicaid legislation

    by Associated Press on Jun 24, 20:27

    ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) – A state judge has denied an attempt to prolong litigation challenging Gov. Bill Walker’s authority to unilaterally expand Medicaid. The Friday action stems from a lawsuit filed by the Alaska Legislative Council against Walker last summer. The case was dismissed by a state court judge in March. The Alaska House subsequently […]

  • News

    Alaska Zoo welcomes new male wolverine

    by Heather Hintze on Jun 24, 20:20

    The Alaska Zoo, in Anchorage, welcomed a new male wolverine earlier this week. Jumbo arrived from Sweden on Wednesday. The 3-year-old male is on exhibit, but is quarantined from his partner Olga for the next few weeks. Olga came from a zoo in Russia last fall. Zookeeper Kora Isakson said the goal is to hopefully […]

  • News

    Veteran advocate takes last ride, laid to rest at Fort Richardson National Cemetery

    by Shannon Ballard on Jun 24, 20:12

    An iconic figure in Alaska’s military and motorcycle communities was remembered for his life of service. Fred “Bulldog” Becker IV dedicated much of his life to advocating for veterans on behalf of the Combat Vets Motorcycle Association and other groups. Becker passed away on June 11. He was 73 years old. Friends and family say […]

  • News

    Brown bear spotted near South Anchorage Neighborhood

    by Lauren Maxwell on Jun 24, 19:36

    Some people who live in a South Anchorage neighborhood are worried about a brown bear that’s been spotted near by. Deborah Baines owns The Learning Farm on Gander Drive, not far from Lake Otis and Huffman. She runs a day camp at the farm, and said on any given day, it’s filled with animals and […]

  • Sports

    Chugiak’s Alev Kelter taking a unique route to Olympics

    by Jake Edmonds on Jun 24, 19:12

    Last updated at 8:30 p.m. Friday, June 24 Alev Kelter is weeks away from joining Team USA Rugby in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. She always dreamed of representing her country at the games, but this was not what she had in mind. After graduating from Chugiak High School in 2009, […]

  • News

    Company applies to be Juneau’s first pot-testing laboratory

    by Associated Press on Jun 24, 18:28

    JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) – A Juneau company has applied to be the first marijuana testing business in Alaska’s capital. The Juneau Empire (http://bit.ly/28WfumQ) reports Southeast Alaska Laboratories LLC has applied for a city conditional use permit and a state marijuana establishment license. Glacier Analytics, another potential testing lab, plans to turn in permitting paperwork next […]