Alaska’s Arctic warriors have to be ready to fight in any weather, no matter the cold. They get special gear, issued only here.
When they’re in the field, the soldiers are often outside in the snow for hours.
“There’s certain points where the cold just kind of gets you,” said combat medic Spc. Tyler Steane.
Steane helps educate his fellow troops about staying warm in the field, starting with their clothing.
“It’s a seven layer system, going down from basically the tan here that you see is the level one,” he said of his lightest layer. “Level seven is the highest level of warmth we have.”
Among the items unique to Alaska’s soldiers are vapor barrier (VB) boots, snowshoes, Arctic mittens and the over-white layer.
“It’s the best camouflage that we have for dealing with snow,” Steane said of the over-white.
There’s no one right way to layer up. It depends on the activity.
“You got to play around with it a lot,” Steane said. “You start noticing what stuff to wear.”
Most of the soldiers have learned what works for them.
“It’s just pure comfort level,” said 11 Bravo infantryman Spc. Ryan Beech. “I have heavy socks on because I hate my feet getting cold. It’s uncomfortable.”
Most say they start with one or two layers, then add as needed.
“We always bring back up, just in case we get stuck out here for a long period of time,” said squad leader Sgt. Robert Boudreaux.
Paratrooper Pfc. Tucker Gruber is new to Alaska and still figuring out his stay-warm system.
“I had to take off my waffle tops and bottoms because I was getting too hot,” he said of his choice of layers that day.
As an Arctic warrior, he knows why the right gear matters.
“You’re not really useful if you’re cold,” Gruber said.
The soldiers sometimes test their gear in extreme conditions, like at the Northern Warfare Training Center in Black Rapids, or doing maneuvers in Deadhorse.