News: Northern Warfare Training Center instructor conquers mountains, builds relationship with Nepal
Story by Staff Sgt. Patricia McMurphy
FORT WAINWRIGHT, Alaska - Fort Wainwright’s Northern Warfare Training Center’s motto is “We battle cold and conquer mountains.” One of their instructors has done that and more – and not just on American turf.
Staff Sgt. Zachery McGee, a military policeman, currently an instructor NWTC who recently summited Mount McKinley with a team of U. S. Army Alaska Soldiers, was chosen for an adventure only a handful of soldiers will ever experience in their lifetime.
The Ledbetter, Ky., native attended the Nepalese High Altitude Mountain Warfare School’s Foreign Student Adventure Course with members of U.S. and foreign military forces.
With his military background and years of climbing experience, McGee said the overall technical aspect of the six-week course was not all that difficult for him but did have its challenges.
“It was a lot of fun and very challenging,” said McGee. “Physically it was an extremely difficult course.
“We did a lot of top rope climbing, which is where an anchor is already established with a rope coming down from the top as a safety [feature],” said McGee. “We did that most days.”
He added, “We did a lot of [physical training] every day that consisted of a run or a mountain march with extra weights from 30-45 pound each.”
Although McGee is an experienced and avid climber with the NWTC, Nepal gave him the opportunity to experience some climbs unlike most he’d been on.
“We did a lot of long length rappels,” said McGee. “Down at Black Rapids we average about 45-foot rappels, there it was 120-130 foot rappels.”
McGee said he was glad to be chosen for this trip and enjoyed getting the chance to climb in another country.
One of the course’s adventures took the Soldiers to Thorong Pass, the highest pass on the Annapurna Circuit. The pass is high enough to cause Acute Mountain Sickness in trekkers not acclimatized to the altitude.
“We moved to Jomsom, which is located at 9,000 feet above sea level on the first day and then to Muktinath at 12,000 feet,” McGee said. “The following day we moved to Thorong Pass at 15,000 feet, according to Nepal, it is the highest pass in the world.”
“We did an acclimation march up to the fixed lines on the route, at about 18,300 feet then moved back to camp for dinner and started the accent at 11 p.m.” McGee added.
Twenty thousand feet was the highest we went as part of our expedition training,” he said.
McGee was picked for this once-in-a-lifetime training event based on his skills, seniority within his unit and experience.
“McGee came to us right after BMC,” said NWTC 1st Sgt. Tom Dow. “He was the honor graduate for his class and has been an instructor for the last two years.
“[McGee] has been to all of the training that we offer to the instructors and he has taken several trips on his own to raise his level of expertise,” said Dow. “He has been to Joshua Tree National Park several times [to climb] and has summited Denali.”
McGee’s profession bearing and communication skills also played a big part of why he was chosen for the mission.
“He’s a professional. He has the ability to talk to senior-level people and keep the focus on what USARAK wants, what the Army wants and still accomplish the mission,” he added. “He is the whole package and gets things done.”
According to Dow, the exchanges between these allied nations started with the U.S. Pacific Command’s focus to strengthen and advance allies and partnerships, promote military professionalism and enhance interoperability among allies and partners to build trust and increase multilateral effectiveness.
“It is starting to grow into a partnership,” said Dow. “We are laying the ground work right now.”
This work, Northern Warfare Training Center instructor conquers mountains, builds relationship with Nepal, by SSG Patricia McMurphy, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.