Alaska National Guard trained north of Arctic Circle
US Army, May 07, 2014 - DEAD HORSE, Alaska by Staff Sgt Mylinda Durousseau - The midnight sun turned the sky pink as 12 paratroopers from 84th Engineer Support Company, 6th Engineer Battalion (Combat)(Airborne), 2nd Engineer Brigade jumped out of a C17 Globemaster III to land north of the Arctic Circle during multi-component joint Arctic mobility exercise Arctic Pegasus.
“It was an awesome jump,” said Staff Sgt John Metzger, supply sergeant with 84 ESC who said this was his first time jumping into the Arctic Circle. “It has been an experience.”
The multiagency exercise, which included air dropping and recovering a Small Unit Support Vehicle, was designed to enhance U.S. Army Alaska’s proficiency for conducting Arctic airborne operations, mobility and ground maneuvers in extreme cold-weather conditions while enhancing interoperability among agencies.
“We started with an airborne insertion of personnel and a SUSV. Today we moved into arctic mobility training,” said 1st Lt. Robert Tester, 84th ESC executive officer.
Air Force pilots operated the C17 used for the initial insertion and pilots from1-207th Aviation Regiment, Alaska Army National Guard further transported the Soldiers through the area in UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters.
“It was a great opportunity to work with Alaska National Guard, their pilots and crew chiefs,” Tester said.
Tester said the austere environment offered less support than other missions and required detailed contingency planning for equipment recovery, personnel injuries and other possible complications.
“It has been an overarching process involving multiple units across USARAK,” Tester said. “Everything went together well, it has been a great experience.”
Arctic Pegasus allowed USARAK to demonstrate its unique capability as the premier Arctic-trained operations command in the Army and maximize training resources across multiple units and maintain readiness for an array of mission sets across the Asia-Pacific theater and the Arctic.
“It was a way for us to rehearse a capability we have that is unique to Alaska and USARAK,” said Lt. Col. William Conde, battalion commander for 6th ENG.
In addition to the challenges of operating in the Arctic being more than 900 miles from the unit’s home station at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson presented communication and medical care concerns.
Maj. Dana Riegel and Capt. Taylor Fernandez, 2nd EN planners, coordinated with civilian agencies like the small medical clinic in Dead Horse to ensure all aspects of readiness were built into the exercise. Great attention was paid to what gear the Soldiers would wear throughout the mission, ensuring they had the proper equipment for operating in the Arctic while not overheating in the 68-degree weather prior to boarding the plane.
“Thing that paid off the most was the integration with external organizations,” said Conde.
The planning and execution of the exercise was focused on the Arctic but the complete process provided valuable experience and training for potential contingencies throughout the USARAK area of operations.
USARAK is prepared to respond to needs in the Pacific and has the ability to travel throughout the region quickly. The ability to board a plane in subzero temperatures and jump out in a tropical environment with almost 100 pounds of equipment strapped to each Soldier is one that could be exercised in a number of situations, said Lt. Col. Alan Brown, USARAK spokesperson.
“The individual adaptation of leaving one environment and going to another, training our troops to be adaptable to those extreme changes is an important skill set,” said Brown.
Exercise Arctic Pegasus presented planning and logistical challenges but joint interagency planning and execution made it possible, said Brown.
“It is what we are up here for,” said Sgt. Kandom Moore, a squad leader with 84th ESC. “It was a great opportunity for us to do what we train on, what makes us different.”
Sikorsky UH-60L Black Hawk 91-26349 Sikorsky UH-60A Black Hawk 89-26152 ( US Army Aviation )