Soldiers prepare for new military focus on Arctic security
Inside the Gates
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Alaska is home to 66,000 miles of Arctic and subarctic coastline, which provides members of the nation’s defense forces with the ideal training ground for exercises in the far north.
“When it comes to the fighting force and securing our nation’s borders, part of the biggest area in the United States is up here in Alaska,” U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Brady Miller said. “It’s really a point of understanding and validating processes and fighting in an area of the world that hasn’t really been utilized very much.”
Between Jan. 30 and Feb. 3, four members of the Coast Guard assisted the U.S. Army 70th Brigade Engineer Battalion “Kodiaks” and 1/11 IBCT “Arctic Wolves” at Fort Wainwright as part of their Arctic strategy preparations.
“We’ve been reaching out and doing some interoperability with ice rescue and ice assessments that has been a big focal point in the Army’s Arctic strategy,” Miller said.
This specific exercise focused on understanding the dynamics of the ice, which included working to understand how the ice would be affected by different ranked aircraft, such as the HH-60 Blackhawk or CH-70 Chinook.
According to military officials, the Arctic strategy had become a lost focus of the military up until 2020.
“It kind of got lost,” Miller said. “The last stuff that was really handled with the Arctic strategy was back during the 50s and 60s during the height of the Cold War.”
For decades, the focus had been placed on desert locations, Miller said.
“The operational domain has changed since then. We fought in jungle environments and fought for over 30 years over in desert environments and now that there is a shift back into the Arctic infrastructure, that’s where this has really taken off, for trying to understand how to fight battles in the Arctic,” Miller said.
Their interoperability between branches is part of an initiative to provide more Arctic combat readiness amongst troops over the last three years.
“The Arctic strategy got published in January of 2020, I believe, so it’s been a new venture by the Department of Defense to really pick up on an area of capabilities that hasn’t really been seen in over 50 years,” Miller said.
Since then, the Coast Guard, Army, Air Force, U.S. Corps of Engineers and foreign nationals such as the Norwegian Army have been working to understand the vast wilderness of the Arctic and how to prepare for a combat situation in the north.
The exercise earlier this month is just one step towards becoming more Arctic-ready. From there, Miller said that continuing to practice, learn and build effectiveness will be a key center point of their training.
“When it comes to the fighting force and securing our nation’s borders, part of the biggest area in the United States is in Alaska so how can we go up here and secure our nation’s borders and do it effectively, safety and understand how to fight here, you know that’s our main goal behind the whole process,” Miller said.
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