• Forecast
  • News Tip
  • Categories
Temperature Precipitation
Estimated read time
2m 58s

Soldiers battle extreme Arctic conditions during Deadhorse training mission

By Bonney Bowman 7:56 AM March 20, 2017

Alaska’s Arctic Warriors are living up to their name. The paratroopers of the 4/25 Airborne Brigade Combat Team recently jumped into Deadhorse as part of an airborne training operation. It was colder than they were expecting.

“We’re not accustomed to the temperatures being this low, negative 50,” said Maj. Isaac Henderson, squadron executive officer. The air temperature hovered around negative35, but with wind chill, it hit negative 63 at the coldest, according to the Army.

The soldiers who were jumping as part of the airborne operation loaded planes in Anchorage. While they were flying north, soldiers on the ground in Deadhorse were preparing for their arrival, where the cold started to take a toll.

“Your radios break down, vehicles starting to break down,” said Henderson.

“We’ve had a lot of trouble communicating with the aircraft as they approach,” said Lt. Col. Jeffrey Crapo, deputy commander of the 4/25. “Also with the equipment, as you get out here in these conditions, it is rough on equipment.”

The conditions are also rough on people. Contact frostbite and exposure are real concerns for those out on the tundra.

“It really opens your eyes to how dangerous these sub-temperatures are,” said Henderson.

The planes arrived in the early afternoon and 128 soldiers jumped out. The wind was so strong, after the soldiers landed, their parachutes dragged them across the tundra.

Once they stowed their gear, the soldiers strapped on skis and snowshoes and started moving toward their mission, which was to recover a simulated downed satellite that had crashed somewhere in the tundra. There’s a simple reason for the exercise.

“To show that the US Army can operate in any type of weather, any type of temperature, any place on the planet,” said Henderson.

The soldiers never made it to the downed satellite. The brutal conditions on the tundra affected some more than others. The Army had planned on using vehicles called SUS-Vs, which can operate on tundra conditions, to pick up any injured soldiers. Of four, only one was working in the extreme cold.

There were two Chinook helicopter crews in Deadhorse as backup, so they turned into rescuers, flying to the drop zone to pick up soldiers, struggling in the cold.

“The key is to get them there as fast as we can to make sure they’re ok,” said Crapo.

Among the soldiers picked up by the Chinook crews was Sgt. 1st Class Jim Blackett, who was concerned he had frostbite.

“As soon as I jumped out [of the plane] my hands instantly froze,” said Blackett. He had his hands checked, and he was lucky. He got them warm in time, but he said the gloves he was wearing just didn’t cut it.

“Definitely a wake up call. Maybe we can do something better,” he said.

Doing it better next time is why these soldiers train in the conditions they might one day have to fight in. Even when it doesn’t go as planned, the training exercise is still a learning experience.

“We don’t need to just survive. The goal is not to land and then live. The goal is to land, live and fight effectively,” said Sgt. Malachy Moran, a senior mechanic.

All told, there were a dozen cold weather-related injuries during the Deadhorse training mission. 11 of the soldiers were able to return to duty that same day.

KTVA 11’s Bonney Bowman can be reached via email or on Facebook and Twitter.

Latest Stories

  • News

    3-year-old sees cop eating alone, so she walks up to his table and sits down

    by Jennifer Earl / CBS News on Mar 29, 17:43

    Sgt. Steven Dearth was taking a quick dinner break when he spotted a little girl in a booth with her family in Panera Bread staring at him. The 3-year-old girl named Lillian was sitting in her dad’s lap when she started waving to the police officer, who works with the Hingham Police Department in Massachusetts. […]

  • Sports

    Freshman Hayden Lieb becomes Bethel’s first All-American wrestler

    by Anna Rose MacArthur/KYUK on Mar 29, 17:27

    Freshman Hayden Lieb has become the first Bethel Regional High School (BRHS) wrestler to earn an All-American title, according to a story originally published by KYUK Public Media. The wrestler earned the honor this weekend at the 2017 National High School Coaches Association Tournament in Virginia Beach, Virginia. “This is a big thing,” said Bethel wrestling […]

  • News

    Tsunami warning system test reveals breaks in communication

    by Melissa Frey on Mar 29, 16:57

    A few errors were identified in the state’s tsunami warning system during a state-wide test Wednesday. This test is done every year to make sure the system is working properly, and Wednesday’s test aimed to reach all coastal Alaska communities at risk. Most people heard or saw the signal loud and clear — it was […]

  • News

    UK begins Brexit process, triggers Article 50 to leave EU

    by CBS News on Mar 29, 16:16

    The United Kingdom formally triggered Article 50 and began the process of leaving the European Union on Wednesday, CBS News correspondent Jonathan Vigliotti reports. The move will end a 44-year relationship, and Britain’s breakup with the EU may not be pretty. The divorce papers were filed at European Union headquarters in Brussels, after British Prime […]

  • News

    New owner, new look for Title Wave Books

    by Heather Hintze on Mar 29, 16:07

    Title Wave Books is currently home to about a half-million books and Angela Libal is partial to all of them. “Impossible, I could never pick a favorite,” she laughed. “It’s like picking your favorite kid, right?” Libal started working at the bookstore 19 years ago, and now she’s the store’s new owner. She’s making a few […]

  • Politics

    Meet the candidates: District 2 – Seat C – Chugiak/Eagle River

    by Daniella Rivera on Mar 29, 15:36

    KTVA invited every registered candidate running in the upcoming Anchorage municipal election to an on-camera interview at our studios to discuss the following topics: Balancing the budget Public safety Introducing new taxes Addressing homelessness in Anchorage Plans for the future We also asked each candidate to submit a 300-word biography, each of which has been […]

  • Lifestyle

    Video: Spectacular northern lights corona captured in real-time

    by KTVA Web Staff on Mar 29, 15:04

      North Pole photographer Sean Kurdziolek specializes in taking stunning photos of the aurora borealis with clients. He described his process in a 2016 series KTVA produced called “Chasing the Lights.” On an outing with clients Monday, he captured a vivid display of aurora corona dancing overhead in real-time. The display occurred around 1 a.m., […]

  • On-Air

    Teacher of the Week: Wendy Barnes

    by James Gaddis on Mar 29, 13:31

    Wendy Barnes learned as a teenager that you should never take anything for granted. When she was 18 years old, she taught sick kids at a hospital in Chernobyl. She said the experience was an eye opener. Years later, as a kindergarten teacher at Tyson Elementary, that lesson still holds true. “You have no idea […]