• 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

  • Politics

    House rules out survivor benefits for slain peace officers, governor ponders alternative

    by Liz Raines on May 04, 23:08

    House Speaker Mike Chenault ruled out an amendment to a criminal justice reform bill — Senate Bill 91 — that would have provided continued healthcare benefits for families of slain peace officers, killed in the line of duty. Amendment one was introduced by Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux Wednesday, the third day of discussion on the bill. […]

  • News

    Missing West Anchorage girl may be on longboard, police say

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on May 04, 23:01

    Anchorage police are looking for a girl last seen leaving her West Anchorage home Wednesday evening. Police say 12-year-old Tia Lowdermilk left home around 5:30 p.m. and may be traveling on her longboard. They say there is concern for her wellbeing. Tia is 5-feet-5-inches tall and weighs roughly 135 pounds, according to police. She was […]

  • Lifestyle

    Lose weight without diet or exercise? Try freezing fat cells away

    by Lauren Maxwell on May 04, 21:05

    Most of us have a part of our bodies we don’t love — maybe a pudgy place that diet and exercise just can’t seem to ever reach. One Anchorage salon says they have the answer for that. It’s a procedure called CoolSculpting. Eileen Johnson, the practice manager at Solara Skin and Laser Center, said they’ve […]

  • Lifestyle

    Combing qiviut keeps staff busy at Musk Ox Farm

    by Heather Hintze on May 04, 20:55

    Musk ox at the farm in Palmer had a little help shedding their winter weight to get ready for summer. Staff at the nonprofit spend this time of year combing out qiviut—the soft undercoat that keeps musk ox warm on the frigid tundra in the wild. “When they’re ready, it’s like putting a hot knife through […]

  • Politics

    Alaska Republican Party reacts to Trump’s presumed nomination

    by Alexis Fernandez on May 04, 20:50

    With Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Sen. Ted Cruz out of the presidential race, the path to the Republican presidential nomination is clear for Donald Trump. But in Alaska, Republican voters are still divided on who should be the nominee. This past weekend, The Alaska Republican Party met in Fairbanks to address the candidates. Chairman […]

  • News

    Meet Odie, APD’s new tech sniffing police dog

    by Shannon Ballard on May 04, 19:17

    The Anchorage Police Department has a new investigative tool they think will make a big difference in the war against child porn. That tool is Odin, a two-year-old yellow lab who’s combating cyber crime with his nose. He is one of only 10 dogs in the world specially trained to sniff out chemicals found in electronic […]

  • News

    Biggest air bag recall in US history gets massively bigger

    by Kate Gibson / Money Watch on May 04, 18:38

    U.S. safety regulators on Wednesday more than doubled what was already the largest recall in U.S. history, adding an additional 35 million to 40 million Takata air bag inflators to the 28.8 million already in need of being replaced. These recall expansions are planned to take place in phases between May 2016 and December 2019, […]

  • News

    McCauley among finalists for education commissioner

    by Associated Press on May 04, 17:51

    Interim state education commissioner Susan McCauley is among the finalists for the commissioner’s post. The other finalists, announced by the state board of education Wednesday, are Michael Johnson, Stewart McDonald and Robert Boyle. Johnson is superintendent of the Copper River School District. McDonald is superintendent of the Kodiak Island Borough School District. Boyle is superintendent […]