• 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

  • Anchorage sisters spreading holiday cheer with elf-grams

    by Sierra Starks on Dec 02, 12:47

    Two Anchorage sisters have dubbed themselves Santa’s little helpers this season. Morgan and Mia Grace Stratton have been delivering joy to the masses through elf-grams — song-and-dance routines — the two are serving up as a fundraiser. The idea was the brainchild of their mother, Jennifer Stratton, inspired by the movie “Elf” with Will Ferrell. […]

  • Man who stabbed Fred Meyer employee indicted on assault, robbery charges

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Dec 02, 12:20

    A 31-year-old Anchorage man who stabbed a security guard at the Midtown Fred Meyer was indicted by a grand jury on assault and robbery charges Thursday, according to a Friday release from the District Attorney’s Office. The criminal complaint states Steven Treadway was approached by a Fred Meyer loss prevention officer on Nov. 20 because the […]

  • Teen convicted of shooting former radio host over vape charger

    by Associated Press on Dec 02, 12:18

    An 18-year-old Anchorage man who told police he killed his foster father because he took away a vapor cigarette charger has pleaded guilty to first-degree murder. State prosecutors say Peter Henry pleaded guilty Friday to killing 64-year-old Marvell Johnson on Oct. 6, 2014. Henry was 16 when Johnson died. A plea agreement calls for a […]

  • DayBreak

    Daybreak Adopt-a-Pet for Dec. 2, 2016

    by Daybreak Staff on Dec 02, 12:00

    From Anchorage Animal Care and Control: Louie, Huey and Dewey: These young brothers are a little shy of people, but with gentle and patient handling, they’ll grow into fun little companions. Bun Bun and Bane: Two charming rabbits are looking for homes. Bun Bun has lived with a rabbit-friendly dog and cat before and enjoyed […]

  • Politics

    Young doesn’t see GOP as rubber stamp of Trump’s ideas

    by Becky Bohrer / AP on Dec 02, 11:14

    U.S. Rep. Don Young says there are similarities between the election of Donald Trump and the 1980 election of Ronald Reagan, which he says came during a period of “malaise” when people lacked hope and wanted change. Young is the longest-serving Republican in the House and Trump’s administration will be the ninth he’s served alongside. […]

  • News

    Ferry riders on Southeast route to see new ticket policy

    by Associated Press on Dec 02, 8:58

    The Alaska Marine Highway System is changing the way passengers pay for ferry sailings on a Southeast Alaska route starting next year. CoastAlaska News reports that ferry spokesman Jeremy Woodrow says those riding the small Lituya will pay for a round trip to go one direction and get a free trip on the way back. The […]

  • News

    Rescuers carry down skier after injury at Turnagain Pass

    by Associated Press on Dec 02, 8:07

    A 36-year-old Anchorage skier was carried to safety after an injury at Turnagain Pass. Alaska State Troopers say emergency responders in Soldotna on Wednesday received a call that Brett Harvey had been injured on Seattle Ridge and could not hike down. The nature of the injury was not disclosed. The Alaska Mountain Rescue Group, Anchorage […]

  • News

    Alaska aims to ban smoking in public housing by spring

    by Associated Press on Dec 02, 7:45

    The federal government is giving public housing agencies nationwide 18 months to implement a ban on smoking, but the state of Alaska is looking to crack down on tobacco much sooner. KYUK-AM reports the director of the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation, Cathy Stone, says the state’s ban on smoking in public housing developments could take effect […]