• 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

    2nd annual ‘Stop the Violence’ block party: ‘We all can play a role’

    by Eric Ruble on Aug 01, 19:02

    The group We Are Anchorage hosted a block party in the parking lot of the Northway Mall on Saturday. The event, called “Stop the Violence,” aimed to gather people from across the city to take action against the recent violent crimes involving Anchorage’s youth. “It doesn’t matter what you look like, what part of town […]

  • Weather

    Weekend weather forecast, Aug. 1

    by KTVA Weather on Aug 01, 18:50

    Anchorage Expect plenty of sunshine on tap for the weekend as high pressure is in control of our weather pattern. This will leave our temperatures well above normal into the low 70s. Kenai Peninsula & Prince William Sound Mostly sunny skies with a few clouds from time to time will be the weather story for […]

  • Lifestyle

    Web Extra: An inside look at Alaska’s renewable island

    by Hope Miller on Aug 01, 12:23

    Planted on Pillar Mountain, Kodiak’s six wind turbines are a fixture in the community. At 80 meters tall each — a bit smaller than a football field — they perch above the town and serve as a symbol for the area’s movement toward renewable energy. In fact, Kodiak Electric Association — which serves the City of […]

  • Sports

    Palmer golfer takes bronze at Special Olympics World Games

    by Megan Mazurek on Aug 01, 12:05

    A golfer from Palmer is a bronze medal winner at the Special Olympics World Games. Garrett Stortz, 24, played in four 18-rounds of golf at Griffith Park. Stortz is a level 5 golfer and improved his personal best every day of play throughout the competition. It was something his coach, Scott Johnson, always knew was […]

  • News

    UPDATE: Playground fire at Alpenglow Elementary considered suspicious

    by Sierra Starks on Aug 01, 11:33

    Two months after a playground fire at a South Anchorage elementary school, the Anchorage School District is reporting another playground destroyed by flames. Crews responded to the fire on the Alpenglow Elementary School grounds just after 8:30 a.m. Saturday, according to the Anchorage Fire Department dispatch. Photos released by the Anchorage School District show charring […]

  • News

    Anchorage in Transition: Paul Alcantar reveals new ideas for Solid Waste Services

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Jul 31, 22:32

    With the election of Anchorage’s new mayor, Ethan Berkowitz, comes a new administration. All this week during the 6 p.m. Evening News, KTVA be interviewing newly appointed department heads about their plans for the future of Anchorage. Friday, we were joined by Paul Alcantar, the new director for Solid Waste Services. Alcantar touched on the […]

  • News

    Berkowitz names new Anchorage Public Transit Director

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Jul 31, 21:55

    Anchorage’s new mayor has announced another addition to his transition team. Mayor Ethan Berkowitz chose Jody Karcz as the new Public Transit Director for the Municipality of Anchorage, according to a statement from the mayor’s office. She will replace current director Tom Wilson, who retired July 14, People Mover said in a statement. The Public […]

  • Sports

    East High School moves closer to playing football on campus

    by Dave Leval on Jul 31, 21:41

    Canyan Linderman loves football, especially for East High School. “It feels amazing to put on the wings,” Linderman said, who is entering his senior season at cornerback. Linderman and the Thunderbirds want to improve on last season’s dismal 1-7 record. This year’s team is excited about the upcoming season, and not just for what may […]