Over 8,000 soldiers perfect Arctic combat skills during multinational readiness exercise
Inside the Gates
EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska (KTUU) - Thousands of soldiers converged on the rugged terrain of Interior Alaska last week during the 11th Airborne Division’s annual regional combat training exercise in Alaska.
The exercise — entitled Joint Pacific Multinational Readiness Center-Alaska 23-02 — is run every year, with the 2023 edition running March 27 through April 5.
This year’s exercise involved around 8,000 soldiers, according to a release from U.S. Army Alaska, and tested soldiers in the mountainous terrain east of Fairbanks and Eielson Air Force Base known as the Yukon Training Area.
Soldiers with the 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 11th Airborne Division joined a multitude of global military allies, including Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry and observers from other Pacific Rim countries such as Japan, India, and Nepal. European observers were also present from Italy, Germany, Norway and Finland.
John Pennell, chief of media relations for the U.S. Army Alaska, shared the goals of the exercise.
“The key objective is for us to get out here and get our soldiers out in the cold and snow,” Pennell said. “We train here to be able to do this, and this is part of the process of regaining our Arctic ethos to be able to live and work in this kind of environment.”
During scenarios in cold weather, the U.S. Army is able to test strategies and equipment to see what functions best in an environment like Alaska with difficult terrain and low temperatures.
“This is a great yardstick to evaluate our training,” Pennell said. “It tells us what areas of our training is doing well, (and) what areas we might need to refocus on.”
Skills learned and polished in the field are used for missions outside of Alaska, Pennell said. These skills are critical during their out-of-state deployments in the Pacific Rim.
“Earlier this year, we deployed soldiers to India where we worked with the Indian Army in the Himalayas,” he said. “Later this year, we will be sending some folks over to Mongolia to interact with the Mongolian Army.”
Additionally, Pennell said that the U.S. Army has been increasing exercises with Nordic countries such as Finland and Norway, with additional exercises planned for the Arctic as the region becomes more of an area of focus.
“Learning to not only survive but thrive in the Arctic is becoming vitally more important, mainly due to the effects of climate change,” Pennell said. “As the sea ice melts, the Northwest Passage is open. There’s a lot more traffic, there’s a lot more interest, and a lot more pressure on the Arctic.”
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