• 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

    UPDATE: Horseshoe Lake Fire reaches 25 acres

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Aug 30, 15:51

    Crews are working to contain a fire, located off Millers Reach Road north of Big Lake. Early Sunday afternoon, authorities were alerted to the fire. Named the Horshoe Lake Fire, it has reached about 25 acres, as of 8 p.m. Sunday. Both helicopters and ground crews are assisting in the containment efforts, according to Norm […]

  • Crime

    Man stabbed in face after altercation in downtown Anchorage

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Aug 30, 15:05

    Police say a young adult male suffered a severe stab wound to his face early Sunday morning after an altercation in downtown Anchorage. Around 2:40 a.m. the Anchorage Police Department received a report of a possible stabbing near Seventh Avenue and D Street. It was reported to police that a group of males got into a […]

  • News

    President Obama to announce renaming of Mount McKinley to Denali

    by Sierra Starks on Aug 30, 13:01

    During his trip to Alaska, President Barack Obama will announce that the federal government has officially restored the name of Denali to the mountain previously known as Mount McKinley. “Today, finalizing a process initiated by the State of Alaska in 1975, President Obama is announcing that the Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell used her […]

  • Lifestyle

    1st weekend of Alaska State Fair kicks off with parade

    by Eric Ruble on Aug 30, 11:52

    The first weekend of the Alaska State Fair kicked off with a parade in downtown Palmer. Forty-five different floats traveled down South Alaska Street, each stopping for 30 seconds at the grandstand to be judged by a panel. Groups from around Southcentral Alaska created their own unique floats that were dispersed between tractors and dozens […]

  • Crime

    Man charged in East Anchorage double homicide

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Aug 30, 10:37

    Anchorage police have arrested and charged a man in a double homicide that occurred in January. Michael Dorell Kelvin Reynold, 22, was taken into custody on Saturday in connection with the shooting deaths of 27-year-old Christian Haynes and 23-year-old Krystal Hawk, according to a release from the Anchorage Police Department. Haynes and Hawk, a couple, were […]

  • News

    Dillingham plans to voice erosion concerns during President Obama’s visit

    by Emily Carlson on Aug 29, 18:50

    When Dillingham residents are asked what their land means to them, the answer is simple — it’s home. Many fear that, due to erosion, they will not only lose their land but also the culture that’s been built upon those shores.

  • News

    Gov. Walker to fly with President Obama to Alaska

    by Associated Press on Aug 29, 13:15

    Gov. Bill Walker will fly to Alaska with President Barack Obama on Monday. Walker’s office announced in a release Saturday that Walker will accompany the president aboard Air Force One from Washington, D.C. The president will address a State Department global warming conference Monday afternoon in Anchorage. He also has visits planned in Seward, Dillingham […]

  • Crime

    UPDATE: Suspect sought in connection with 1 of the overnight shootings in Anchorage

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Aug 29, 8:03

    Anchorage police say two men were injured in shootings that happened in the overnight hours between Friday and Saturday. APD is now seeking a suspect, Michael Sharp, in connection with one of those shootings. On Friday, officers went to two homes in response to a verbal altercation between three people, a 23-year-old woman, her 23-year […]