Military News

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Deadhorse drop tests paratroopers' arctic skills

by Sgt. 1st Class Jeffrey Smith
4-25th IBCT Public Affairs

3/5/2015 - DEADHORSE, Alaska -- Paratroopers with U.S. Army Alaska's 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division performed the largest U.S. airborne mission north of the Arctic Circle in more than a decade Feb. 24 during Spartan Pegasus 15.

The exercise demonstrated their unique ability to rapidly mass power on an objective in an extremely cold, austere environment.

The airborne operation, spearheaded by the Spartan Brigade's 6th Brigade Engineer Battalion, inserted nearly 150 paratroopers, along with arctic-mobility equipment including a Small-Unit Support Vehicle and arctic sustainment gear.

The large-scale exercise involved intricate planning and coordination among several military components, including U.S. Army Alaska, the Air Force and the Alaska Air  National Guard.

The exercise validated Soldier mobility across frozen terrain - a key fundamental of USARAK's mission as the Army's northernmost command.

The air support package included two Air Force C-17 Globemaster III aircraft and two Alaska Air National Guard C-130 Hercules aircraft to fly the task force more than 800 miles north of Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.

Pegasus was a joint operation. Maj. Kirby Chacon, with the Alaska Air National Guard at JBER, said working closely with the Army for Spartan Pegasus helped further relations, and that just being able to practice for real-world applications is important for both branches.

Army Capt. John Kline, commander of B Company, 6th BEB, said Spartan Pegasus demonstrated USARAK's unique airborne and arctic skill sets as well as the unit's ability to work closely with joint military partners.

"We do a lot of joint partnership missions," Kline said. "We work with our Air Force brethren out of JBER and the Alaska  National Guard as well as many other partners from across Alaska."

"This exercise showcases the rapidly-deployable capabilities of the paratroopers," Kline continued. "The arctic paratrooper can really survive in extreme conditions and can [deploy] in very short response time."

USARAK is the Army's proponent for extreme cold-weather training.

As home to the Northern Warfare Training Center, USARAK validates the training concepts taught there through operations across the state - including within the Arctic Circle and even at the top of Mount McKinley.

Staff Sgt. Nathaniel Wallace, who trained for the extreme cold at the NWTC  in Black Rapids, said the training was beneficial because it taught him key arctic skills that he uses while training across Alaska.

"The Northern Warfare Training Center can get a little cold," joked Wallace. "But it was a good experience. Our equipment allows us to operate down to about negative 40 [Fahrenheit], and coming up here [to Alaska] gave me the unique opportunity to get on skis for the first time in my life. Learning how to ski and how to snowshoe allows us to be more mobile while on the ground."

Adding to the exercise's success were the command-and-control communications provided by the 307th Expeditionary Signal Battalion, 516th Signal Brigade.

The mission marked the farthest north a command post node has been established by the unit - a key factor in the success of the overall mission.

The various military components were able to maintain constant contact with each other allowing for efficient order issue and receipt during the entire exercise.

Though the mission was at the top of Alaska, it was tracked by the Department of the Army as an emergency deployment readiness exercise.

With all jumpers and gear safely on the tundra, the airborne team once again demonstrated USARAK's ability to work closely with joint military partners to respond to emergencies and contingencies in the harsh arctic environment of Alaska and other parts of the Asia-Pacific region.

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