Army tackles Arctic challenges alongside European allies

Army Tackles Arctic Challenges Alongside European Allies, by Mikayla Easley, August 2, 2022 in National Defense Magazine. The author covers the renewed emphasis on Arctic operations by the US Army, including the Army’s 2021 strategy document, Regaining Arctic Dominance: The US Army in the Arctic.

During a discussion of Army strategy at a recent defense defense exhibition in Paris, Maj. Gen. Peter Andrysiak, deputy commander of U.S. Army Europe and Africa, stated, ““We have a significant gap in operating in areas of extreme cold, … in high levels of snowfall and in mountainous terrain,” Closing this gap is critical in the face of expanded Arctic presence and operations by Russian and China.

France and Finland have facilities that allow regular large-scale training in Arctic conditions. The US Army in the 1990s did the same in Alaska, when I graduated from the mountain warfare course at the Black Rapids Training Site, operated by the Northern Warfare Training Center at Ft. Wainwright. Instruction in that capability and commitment waned during the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, but is being rebuilt with the activation of the 11th Airborne Division in Alaska, “the first time the Army has activated an airborne division in 70 years, according to the service.”

The article discusses the challenges of Arctic operations, the need for new and better integrated systems, and the need to “train as you fight” including joint operations with other Arctic nations. One thing the article does not address is the capabilities and contributions of the current Guard and Reserve units in Alaska. These units are typically populated by long-term Alaska residents, experienced troops recently separated from the military in Alaska, and a large percentage of Alaska Natives with extensive experience operating in severe Arctic conditions.