Troopers organize USARAK Winter Games
April 2, 2014
When U.S. Army Alaska needed a unit to carry out a unique and uncharted mission, the brigade commander of the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division called on the troopers of the 5th Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment. The mission was to develop, plan, resource, and execute the inaugural U.S. Army Alaska Winter Games at Fort Wainwright, Alaska from March 9-13, 2014.
Teams from Fort Wainwright and Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson competed in a series of eight events which showcased their arctic war-fighting capabilities. These events included: downhill slalom skiing, a 5K biathlon, a 5K snowshoe Ahkio-sled pull, a land navigation course, a 5K patient evacuation Sked pull, a snowshoe stress shoot, skijoring, and an arctic skills written test.
The intent of the competition was to encourage esprit de corps among units, test the physical and mental stamina of the teams, and validate the arctic war-fighting skills of Soldiers across Alaska.
"After almost a decade of deployments and a high operation tempo, it's vital that we as Soldiers develop a renewed mastery of our arctic war-fighting capabilities," said Squadron Operations Officer, Maj. John Campbell. "These competencies are key to our ability to deploy, fight, and win our nation's wars in even the most austere and frigid environments."
The USARAK Winter Games began with the planning process. 5-1 CAV's operations shop put together a framework for the event in early January.
"Since this type of event hasn't been done for quite some time, we had to start from scratch and work to turn the arctic combat skills we have into competitive events," said Assistant Operations Officer 1st Lt. Nathan Stratton. "Not only that, but we were faced with establishing a way to run the event that allowed for effective command and control in real time."
The planning process also necessitated assistance outside of 5-1 CAV.
"We corroborated with multiple partners to ensure the complex planning of the games led a seamless execution of the event," said Operations Sergeant Major, Sgt. Maj. Willie Langes. "From USARAK to our civilian support, we couldn't have carried out an operation of this magnitude without assistance from a wide range of agencies."
USARAK supplied the overall funding for the games. USARAK Aviation Taskforce provided logistical support, delivered food to the Soldiers involved, maintained the portable restrooms, and ran the bivouac site where teams slept. The Northern Warfare Training Center sent graders for the written test, Small Unit Sustainment Vehicles for the skijoring, medics for the medical evacuation lane, snow machines, and all of the supplies for the downhill skiing event. Birch Hill Ski and Snowboard Area management opened usage of the ski hill, provided lodging facilities, and opened the café to feed participants between events. Civilian bus drivers transported Soldiers from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson to Fort Wainwright and facilitated transportation between events during the competition.
The squadron set up a tactical operations center from which all communications, team movement, logistics, personnel reports, and operations could be tracked and synchronized. FM radios and the Alaska Mobile Radio System in conjunction with a retransmission site were used to provide long range FM communications between the operations center and units dispersed across the competition area. The Initial-Homestation Instrumentation Training System was used to track the movement of teams in real-time during the land navigation event. This system enabled the control centers to monitor progress, estimate completion times, and coordinate support movements.
"Although this was a multiple unit competition, it was a superb training event for the squadron's command and control systems in preparation for future major training events or possible deployments," said Squadron Commander, Lt. Col. Erik Krivda. "The Soldiers and leaders of the squadron displayed one of the Blackhawks' fundamental strengths: a highly disciplined formation. The Blackhawks can take a complex operation and execute with professionalism no matter the task."
"This amazing display of arctic mastery is the direct result of years of training to fight in arctic conditions," said Squadron Executive Officer, Maj. Jason Moncuse. "In the end, these games have showcased not only to the Army, but to all those who witnessed them in person, or via Internet, that we are the premiere fighting force of the North and we are prepared to execute our mission wherever and whenever we are called."