• 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

    Sitka Sound Science Center gets $1.3 million facelift

    by Heather Hintze on Oct 20, 9:17

    Hundreds of Sitka residents turned out to get a look at the newly renovated Sitka Sound Science Center, which got a $1.3 million facelift. “Today we’re here to remember the past, appreciate this very moment and look to the future,” said Executive Director Lisa Busch. The Sage Memorial Building was originally built in 1929 as […]

  • Sports

    Sitka roller derby team welcomes competition in first home bout

    by Heather Hintze on Oct 20, 8:29

    It was a sold-out crowd of 400 fans for the Sitka Sound Slayers as they took on the Wrangell Garnet Grit Betties. The bout was the first time a team from Alaska traveled to the small southeast community. The women started Sitka’s roller derby team less than two years ago. Players said they’re thrilled it’s […]

  • Weather

    Daybreak weather, Oct. 20

    by KTVA Weather on Oct 20, 7:45

  • News

    Search continues for Anchorage mother, missing for more than a week

    by Bonney Bowman on Oct 20, 7:31

    Lissa Lake is sounding the call to action, asking volunteers to help bring 20-year-old Jael Hamblen home. Hamblen has been missing for more than a week after vanishing from her South Anchorage apartment last Saturday. Lake hopes pictures of Hamblen sparks someone’s memory. “Just trying to get the community out and get the word out […]

  • News

    AFD responds to early morning fire

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Oct 20, 7:01

    Anchorage firefighters responded to an early morning fire in South Anchorage Monday. According to the Anchorage Fire Department, 13 units responded to the fire on the 600 block of East 79th Avenue. A neighbor who was coming home said he heard the smoke alarms while walking up his driveway. “I was coming home from hanging […]

  • News

    First Alaskans hope changes to ballot will increase Native voter turnout

    by Dave Leval on Oct 19, 19:18

    Tomorrow, the annual Elders and Youth Conference, put on by the First Alaskans Institute, kicks off. Held at the Dena’ina Convention and Civic Center in Anchorage, this year’s event will feature an extra message. “Get out that Native vote,” said Liz Medicine Crow, who leads First Alaskans Institute. Medicine Crow is also helping to attract […]

  • News

    Ketchikan officials to consider prayer at meetings

    by Associated Press on Oct 19, 17:54

    The Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly is set to consider whether to begin its meetings with a prayer. A public hearing and vote are scheduled for Monday. The Ketchikan Daily News reports (http://bit.ly/1whLulU) that there was disagreement at an earlier meeting about whether non-religious speakers would be allowed to deliver invocations and how much time would […]

  • News

    Parnell has closed meeting at JBER with Guard members

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Oct 19, 15:49

    Gov. Sean Parnell met with Alaska National Guard members today. Parnell, who is commander-in-chief of the Alaska National Guard, held the meeting to addressing changes that are being implemented within the Guard. This comes after the Guard’s administration has withstood harsh criticism for allegations of sexual assault, fraud and other misconduct. An investigation into the Guard resulted […]