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The importance of Arctic Light Infantry Training
U.S. Army Alaska Soldiers participate in cold-weather training at Black Rapids Training Site. (U.S. Army photo/David Bedard)
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The importance of Arctic Light Infantry Training

Posted 10/9/2012   Updated 10/9/2012 Email story   Print story


Commentary by Army Maj. Gen. Michael Garrett
USARAK commanding general

10/9/2012 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Since its inception, our Army has faced the dire consequences of fighting in the bitter cold. In 1777, Washington's revolutionaries stumbled into Valley Forge. Many were barefoot and trailing blood behind them. The ill-equipped Soldiers settled in for a devastating winter through which 2,500 of those 12,000 Continental Soldiers died.

Nearly two centuries later, ill-equipped Soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division fought through the cold of the infamous Battle of the Bulge in Bastogne. The Screaming Eagles suffered through frostbite, hunger and combat. Our Army learned through harsh experience the cold is ruthlessly unforgiving to those who aren't prepared to withstand it.
Troops trained to fight in sub-zero temperatures will be equally effective in more temperate environments. Soldiers who are only capable of fighting in warmer conditions won't have the training to survive, much less fight and win, while enduring the bitter cold.
Many duty stations in the Army are known for being the home of a unique branch, unit or skill. The Maneuver Center is at Fort Benning, Ga.; Fort Bragg, N.C., is the home of the XVIII Airborne Corps and Fort Rucker, Ala., is synonymous with aviation. Just as all those places have their notoriety, we here in Alaska are recognized as the U.S. Army's premier cold-weather warfighters.

We are the military's experts on moving through the snow, surviving the cold, treating and preventing cold weather injuries, and fighting the enemy in below-zero temperatures. No one else in the U.S. military does what we do. That's what makes us Arctic Tough.

Winter is coming and we must take full advantage of the harsh arctic, sub-arctic and mountainous environments Mother Nature and this magnificent state afford us. We will follow the mantra of the Northern Warfare Training Center. Over the next six months, we will take every opportunity to get out there to battle cold and conquer mountains.

Arctic skills must be emphasized on every training schedule. Arctic-skills training is designed to ready our Soldiers psychologically and physically to operate both safely and effectively in some of the most inherently perilous climates on the planet.

Arctic Light Infantry Training is an annual requirement for every Soldier in this command and the tenant organizations that support us. This instruction is designed to prepare our formations to safely train in an arctic environment. Every Soldier newly assigned to Alaska, regardless of rank, must complete ALIT level 1 before participating in any field training exercise and ALIT level 2 before participating in a field-training exercise during the winter months. Everyone else will complete ALIT at least annually.

I encourage each of you to make the most of your unit's ALIT training. Be involved. Know your equipment and know what to do when training in the cold. Learn how to prevent the cold weather from injuring yourself or your Soldiers. Especially know the proper steps to take when someone does get frostbitten.

When you notice your buddy's face getting gray or waxy is no time to reach for a manual. Hesitation could be the difference between a quick recovery and disaster.
Prevention is the best treatment. We have the equipment, training and resources to keep our Soldiers safe. What we need are involved leaders and subject-matter experts who will take the time to conduct training correctly and make sure everyone in their formation is Arctic Tough.

I care about each of you. I love this Army and our Soldiers. I've been around our formations my entire life. For me, nothing is more heartbreaking than unnecessary accidents, suffering and casualties. If we each do the right thing, plan properly and look out for our buddy, we can prevent cold weather injuries from afflicting our

I am extremely proud of each of you and the great work you are doing. Being a Soldier isn't easy and I respect the courage and strength it took every one of you to volunteer to serve our nation.

I promise to give you my very best each and every day. I expect nothing less from each of you. As amazing as this command is, together we can make U.S. Army Alaska even better. That is something I am excited to watch as we serve and grow together.

Arctic Warriors! Arctic Tough!

1/28/2015 3:07:44 PM ET
12815Now with the bases in Alaska on the chopping block would the unique Arctic training Alaska offers its soldiers be an important argument for keeping bases here in AlaskaThank-you
Paulette Shannon, Eagle River AK
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