Inside the Gates: Extreme cold weather training
Three days in extremely cold conditions came to an end for 600 Guardsmen from the U.S. and Canada.
The training is part of Arctic Eagle 2018, an exercise that put the soldiers to the test in cold weather and high latitudes to perform Arctic skills training featuring live fire exercises, situational training exercises and building international partnerships.
“With the increasing interest in the Arctic domain, we have to be ready to be able to maneuver in any kind of weather,” said Brig. Gen. Joseph Streff, commander of the Alaska Army National Guard. “This is our opportunity to use this event for our Arctic skills training and make sure that our equipment works-- that our soldiers are trained and that we have the capacity to meet both our state and federal missions.”
Guardsmen from Alaska, Wyoming, Vermont and Colorado, along with Army Reservists from Canada, took part in the three-day exercise.
“I think the biggest surprise for our guys is the cold weather system,” said Capt. Christopher Beyrle, commander of the Colorado National Guard's 220th Military Police Company. “We've had the seven-layer system. We've never had to utilize it in cold weather; a lot of wet weather and moderately cold but nothing like we've seen here."
Each squad was issued an Ahkio Group, a sled with an Arctic 10-man tent and other squad cold-weather supplies, to sleep in and utilize throughout the exercise. The sleds have a harness system so that a single squad member can pull it behind them. Temperatures reached -27°F at Alaska's Donnelly Training Area. Wyoming Army National Guard soldiers enjoyed a warm tent after suffering through the previous night without a proper heater.
"This is our second night. On the first night, our stove wasn't working," Staff Sergeant Anthony Lopez said. "That was absolutely horrible. We couldn't do another night like that so they got us a new stove and it is working a lot better."
Even with previous training, groups found it difficult to set up the tents when the temperatures were below freezing. The ground beneath the tents was frozen to more than three feet deep.
“We're taking what the Army teaches us in our cold weather leader courses," 1st Sgt. Russell Throckmorton said. "Also, the Western Alaska guys are teaching us tips and tricks that we've never known before."
Soldiers were also trained on proper usage of snowmachines and Small Unit Support Vehicles. Realistic training in cold weather conditions challenges participants to test field-craft skills, remote communications capability and validate Arctic transportation capabilities. Arctic Eagle 2018 started on February 25 and runs through March 8, and consists of scenario-based events at multiple locations throughout Alaska.
The goals of Arctic Eagle 2018 are for participating forces to operate in a joint, interagency, intergovernmental and multinational environment; assess ability to conduct sustained operations in arctic conditions and integrate new and emerging capabilities.
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