Most of us wouldn’t want to work outside for hours in icy conditions, but for Alaska’s Arctic soldiers, it’s the perfect time to put their skills to the test. There are training activities they can only do during the winter.

The 2-377th Parachute Field Artillery Regiment held a live-fire exercise Tuesday. They’re the U.S. Army’s only Arctic airborne artillery unit. They dropped a howitzer gun out of the back of a C-17 and then jumped after it. They had 35 minutes to put the gun together and get it ready to fire.

“In just over 26 minutes, they were able to de-rig the howitzer off of the platform, get the howitzer under action, make contact over the radio with our forward observers watching the impact area and be ready to shoot a live fire mission,” said battalion commander Lt. Col. Rick Johnson. “We’ve got some very rigorous time and accuracy standards and this is really our best training venue to kind of measure ourselves against that.”

It was only 10 degrees and the battlefield was covered in ice and snow, which can make meeting that time goal difficult.

“No individual task is harder, but really just the fatigue and all the little things add up to make it a bit more of a challenge,” Johnson said.

The soldiers can only fire live rounds into Eagle River Flats during the winter. The Environmental Protection Agency says the ice must be at least five inches thick to prevent any environmental damage. The artillery regiment can use live rounds until March 31. If they want to train during the summer, they have to drive six hours north to Donnelly Training Area, which is just outside Delta Junction.

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

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