News: Cold Weather Safety Course gears soldiers up for cold-weather survival
Story by Staff Sgt. Patricia McMurphy
FORT WAINWRIGHT, Alaska - The Northern Warfare Training Center, U.S. Army Alaska’s premiere cold weather and mountaineering school, is known mainly for their Cold Weather Leaders Course, Cold Weather Orientation Course and their Basic Mountaineering Course, which help Army leaders learn skills to teach their soldiers so they can train and fight safely during Alaska’s harsh winters, as well as around the globe.
The NWTC now offers a shorter, more condensed cold-weather course geared toward the team leaders and their soldiers.
The NWTC’s newest course, the Cold Weather Safety Course, gets the information and training out to units immediately and gets information to soldiers new to Alaska before the extreme Arctic temperatures strike.
“This is a two-and-a-half-day course to introduce new soldiers to Alaska, to cold-weather equipment, cold-weather clothing and how to train in cold weather safely and properly,” said 1st Lt. David Brandl, NWTC special projects officer. “They need to know this stuff to keep them safe.”
According to Brandl units have had problems the last couple years with cold-weather injuries. They introduced this new course to get the information out to as many soldiers on as many levels and as quickly as possible to prevent future injuries.
“It depends on where you are in Alaska on how cold it gets,” said Brandl. “In Fairbanks, we can get cold snaps into the minus 50s and colder and out at Donnelly Training Area by Fort Greely, it can hit minus 50 with a wind chill factor bringing it into the minus 70s.”
“As we are staying home more and not deploying as much, we’ve lost that Arctic skill,” said Brandl. “This course is trying to get back to the basics – to help prevent cold-weather injuries at the soldier level.”
The course covers everything from proper wear of the Extended Cold Weather Clothing System, maintaining vehicles and weapons in cold weather, how to correctly set up Army tents with Arctic stoves and what to look for, as well as prevent cold-weather injuries.
“I think this is excellent training for the new guys that just got here and even some of the older guys that don’t know the tricks that can keep you from getting cold-weather injuries and how to properly set up a tent,” said Spec. Travis Healy, B Company, 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division. “Just the simple stuff that can help you keep the wind from getting inside your tent.”
“A lot of this stuff I didn’t even know until I took this course,” said the Polson, Mont., native, “and I’ve been here three years.”
“I recommend this course,” said Healy. “It shows you what can happen if you don’t properly use your equipment.”
“We are getting ready to go to a field training problem, so this was perfect timing,” he added.
During the classroom portion of the course, students were shown examples of frostbite so they may have a better understanding of what to look for as well as given statistical facts on who may be more prone to cold-weather injuries.
Even after some photos not meant for the squeamish, one soldier, Pvt. Elisabeth Prater, an Olympia, Wash., native now serving with 25th Brigade Support Battalion, said she wasn’t too worried about becoming a cold-weather casualty.
“I heard I was getting stationed here and was pretty excited,” Prater said. “I love it (here).”
“I’ve learned a lot about cold weather and what to do, like winterizing your vehicles,” she said.
Prater said she was enthusiastic about Alaska being her first duty station and with the training she has received from the NWTC’s CWSC, she is sure she will be able to enjoy her time here in Alaska safely.
“I haven’t experienced negative 20s yet,” said Prater, “but I think I will do fine.”