Special operation forces battle Arctic conditions during Arctic Edge 18

By Petty Officer 1st Class Kiona Miller Alaskan Command

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The U.S. military conducts mission-based training events year-round, but Arctic Edge 2018 is a unique opportunity that has brought over 1,500 U.S. military personnel from more than 20 units together to train in arctic conditions throughout the Alaska range.

For the Special Operations Command, North, located in at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, it is an ideal environment to test their ability to operate in those extreme weather conditions. 

“It’s a chance for us to get up here in these extreme conditions and conduct training to make sure the equipment is working, and we are keeping those skill sets sharp,” said the Director of Operations, Joint Special Operations Task Force, Alaska. 

SOCNORTH is conducting long-range movements in severe weather conditions over treacherous terrain with limited visibility that is challenging for even the most experienced operator. The teams have endured through sub-zero temperatures and near white-out conditions since the first team deployed March 7th.

During the evolution, one advanced operating base team and two operational detachment-alpha teams, which consist of both mobility and mountain trained personnel, were deployed to Alaska’s Utqiagvik and Anaktuvuk Pass. 
So far, the teams have completed long-range ground and air infiltration events, which included an air drop of equipment, reconnaissance and direct-action operations. The teams also utilized new communication systems to enhance their capabilities in a cold-weather environment.

The company operations officer said the biggest obstacle the teams have overcome is identifying and, in some cases, developing new equipment needed for operations in such austere environments.

“We have guys in Anaktuvuk and we have guys in Barrow, two completely different terrains, and it requires two different load outs,” he said. “So, finding the solutions for equipment and getting people to understand that there is no one size fits all [packing list].”

With the diverse terrains and cold-weather conditions, the company operations officer believes training events like Arctic Edge allow the teams to maintain perishable skills.

“It’s cold in Colorado, but we don’t deal with the temperatures that they deal with up here. So the ability to come up here and train in Alaska is phenomenal.” 

The names and ranks of Special Forces personnel were removed for operational security and privacy concerns.