• 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

    Daybreak weather, Oct. 30

    by Brett Shepard on Oct 30, 8:36

    More of the same in Southcentral with partly cloudy skies and cool conditions. In the Southeast rain gear will be needed with rain on and off throughout the day. In the Interior skies will be mostly cloudy with flurries possible. On the North Slope skies will be mostly cloudy with a few show showers. Out […]

  • News

    Former Guard commander describes working with ‘the three-headed monster’

    by Emily Carlson on Oct 30, 7:24

    They are the documents that led to local schools banning military recruiters from campus. Now, the four men named in those documents are suing the U.S. Army after their confidential investigations were leaked to the media. Lt. Col. Joseph Lawendowski, Sgt. Shannon Tallant, Master Sgt. John Nieves and Master Sgt. Jarrett Carson say they are […]

  • News

    After blaze in Bethel, alcohol addiction counselors soldier on

    by Kate McPherson on Oct 29, 23:10

    Reaching out for help to overcome alcohol addiction can be hard. Experts in Bethel say finding someone who can help can be even harder, especially in rural Alaska. People travel to Bethel from all over Alaska for treatment at the Phillips Ayagnirvik (or Alcoholism) Treatment Center, whose renovated building went down in flames on Monday […]

  • Lifestyle

    Families in Alaska concerned over proposed Medicaid reforms

    by Bonney Bowman on Oct 29, 21:05

    One year ago, Gov. Sean Parnell announced Alaska would not accept billions in federal dollars to expand the state’s Medicaid system. Instead, he set up a committee to reform it and make it sustainable and easy to use for providers and recipients. In a meeting with the committee today, dozens of Medicaid recipients and service […]

  • News

    Mountain View revitalization continues with another new restaurant

    by Heather Hintze on Oct 29, 19:10

    The smell of fresh sauerkraut and schnitzel wafts in the air at West Berlin. The new restaurant, located at the corner of Mountain View Drive and North Park Street, just opened for business on Monday. Owner Bill Hoopai is no stranger to the restaurant world; he’s operated the three Hula Hands locations since 2000 but is […]

  • Sports

    UAA Volleyball No. 2 in division rankings

    by KTVA Sports on Oct 29, 18:29

    After splitting its matches last week, the UAA volleyball squad entered the season’s initial Division II West rankings in second place. The Seawolves came into the week with a 17-4 overall record (11-2 GNAC). Northwest Nazarene, who, so far, beat UAA twice this season, sits at the top of the standings. Along with the Seawolves […]

  • Lifestyle

    Self-expression through art helps student veterans at UAA

    by Hope Miller on Oct 29, 18:24

    Two counselors at the University of Alaska Anchorage are using an unconventional method to help student veterans who may be having a tough time. It’s called “Operation: Self Expression” and the mission is to use art to get student veterans to open up about their emotions. “It’s theraputic, but we’re not trying to push it […]

  • News

    AFD seeks help solving suspicious Anchorage fires

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Oct 29, 17:23

    Investigators are seeking the public’s help solving two recent structure fires in the area of 80th Avenue and Old Seward Highway. The fires occurred within days of each other, both in unoccupied structures, according to a release from AFD. The first took place in a new building that was under contruction on the 600 block […]