News: Fort Wainwright military police prepare for Arctic winter temperatures
Story by Staff Sgt. Patricia McMurphy
FORT WAINWRIGHT, Alaska - As the snow poured from the clouds making it difficult to tell the difference from sky and ground, plow trucks took to the streets and the soldiers of 472nd Military Police Company, 793rd Military Police Battalion took to the field.
These soldiers will work and train in some of the coldest temperatures central Alaska can throw at them and with the Arctic training they receive, they will be ready for it.
“We are conducting our level two cold weather training exercise to prepare ourselves for winter training,” said Staff Sgt. Robert Norton, military policeman with 472nd MPs. “Soldiers that come to Alaska need to know what they are getting into.”
With 70 percent of the company currently deployed, soldiers here are stepping it up ensuring all aspects of the company’s tasks are still covered to include cold weather certification.
“We train in temperatures down to minus 30 and it is important to prepare ourselves for that temperature because you can get a cold weather injury within minutes without the proper training,” Norton said.
Exposure to extremely cold temperatures, 32 degrees or below, for prolonged periods of time can lead to frostbite. The risk becomes greater as the temperature drops and the wind increases.
“The most important part of this training is repetition; a lot of mistakes can happen in the cold and that can lead to cold weather injury or stopping the training all together,” said Norton. “I think that the most critical thing for a soldier is to be well rounded and open to training even though the weather may restrict it.”
For some of these soldiers, this was something they do each winter, but for others, it was like something out of a dream.
“This is the first time I’ve ever been around this much snow,” said Crystal Washington, supply sergeant for 472nd MP Co.
The Jacksonville, N.C., native said everything back in her hometown would close down with the amount of snow she was training in and winter has barely just begun in Alaska.
“It was better than I expected, I thought it was going to be a lot worse,” said Washington. “Tonight might be worse, we are not going to have any heaters tonight and it’s supposed to get down to around 2 or 0.”
Another soldier, brand new to Alaska, Spc. David Gonzalez, a military policeman with the 472nd MP Company said he was glad to receive the training and surprised he had not received it before now.
“I was in Korea for a year and they didn’t give us any Arctic training and we did get sub–zero temperatures,” said Gonzalez. “This is the first area where I have learned to actually survive in sub-zero temperatures.”
“If we didn’t have the proper equipment, we would have to build our own shelters and this prepares us for where we will need to put this training to use,” he added.
The Erie, Pa., native said he learned a lot about how to survive and stay safe in Arctic conditions throughout the course.
“We have built our own improvised snow shelters, put up our own tents with Arctic stove heaters, and we have learned how to survive in sub-zero conditions,” said Gonzalez.
The training not only built the soldiers' knowledge, but their confidence in their equipment, themselves and their fellow MPs.
“With the training and leadership that we have, I feel confident,” said Gonzales. “I feel more accomplished as a soldier to take on these challenges for the future.”
He added, “Do as much training as you can - you never know what kind of situation you’re going to be in.”