• 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

  • Weather

    Evening News weather, March 5

    by KTVA Weather on Mar 05, 20:29

    Kenai Peninsula/Prince William Sound The Kenai Peninsula and Prince William Sound forecast calls for increasing chance of rain turning to light snow overnight.   Southeast The Southeast forecast calls for rain showers to the north and just a chance of rain from Petersburg south.   Interior/North Slope Interior locations will have cloudy skies and light […]

  • News

    Boston Marathon bombing survivor writes letter to Tsarnaev

    by CBS News/Associated Press on Mar 05, 19:53

    Boston Marathon bombing survivor Rebekah Gregory says it took nearly two years, but she is no longer afraid of the man accused in the attack, CBS station WBZ-TV reports. Rebekah lost a leg in the bombings and was among the first witnesses to testifyagainst Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on Wednesday. To Rebekah, the written letter is not a lost art. […]

  • News

    Suspect in U.S. ambassador attack well-known to police

    by CBS News/Associated Press on Mar 05, 19:47

    The man named as the assailant in a knife attack that injured the U.S. ambassador to South Korea was well-known among police and activists as one of a hard-core group of protesters willing to use violence to highlight their causes. Purported U.S. interference in Korean affairs appeared to be the main grievance of Kim Ki-jong, 55, who […]

  • News

    University sends out climate survey on sexual assault

    by Lauren Maxwell on Mar 05, 19:44

    The University of Alaska is asking some very personal questions of more than 15,000 students, staff and faculty. The so-called “Climate Survey” was sent out by email on Monday to students at every campus around the state. The anonymous survey asks specific questions about whether the recipients have experienced sexual harassment or sexual assault on […]

  • News

    After years with SeaLife Center, beloved Steller sea lion dies

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Mar 05, 17:25

    A 21-year-old Steller sea lion that was a favorite among staff and visitors has died following complications with bone degeneration, the Alaska SeaLife Center announced. Sugar was humanely euthanized Wednesday, the Seward facility said in a press release. Because of her age, veterinarians had been monitoring her health. She had not previously displayed signs of […]

  • Sports

    Benjamin Harper

    by John Thain on Mar 05, 16:09

    Ben Harper felt right at home at the Knik 200 Sled Dog Race. After all, it runs many of the same trails as the Jr Iditarod — a race he’s finished three times. But after his 18th birthday last June, Harper was a junior musher no more. The next step was the Iditarod. “I’ve never […]

  • Lifestyle

    Full moon rising over Anchorage, Chugach Mountains

    by KTVA Web Staff on Mar 05, 15:59

    Cold, clear weather conditions made it possible to capture this time lapse video of February’s full moon rising over Anchorage from behind the Chugach Mountains. Photos taken on February 2, 2015 by Rick Boots. Have photos or video you’d like to submit to KTVA? Click the “News Tip” button at the top of the website […]

  • News

    Troopers investigate reported child death in Shungnak

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Mar 05, 15:07

    Alaska State Troopers are responding to the village of Shungnak to confirm the death of a child. Wednesday around 10 p.m., the Shungnak Village Public Safety Officer notified Alaska State Troopers in Kotzebue “of an incident involving a child,” according to an online dispatch posted Thursday afternoon. A medevac was dispatched to transport the child to Anchorage […]