Soldiers tackle Granite Tors
August 12, 2010
- Granite Tors
FORT WAINWRIGHT, Alaska - 1-25th SBCT PAO Soldiers assigned to B Company, 1st Battalion, 24th Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division are prepared for anything the Alaska environment can throw at them.
Carrying 30-pound rucksacks and the determination that only infantrymen can possess, the team of approximately 80 Soldiers hiked the steep mountainous terrain of Alaska's Granite Tors, Aug 2 and 3.
Known for its scenic hiking trails and view overlooking the Alaska Range and Chena River valley, Granite Tors provides the Soldiers with a training climate and terrain valuable for those heading overseas.
"We wanted to get the Soldiers out of their barracks to experience the outdoors, get some PT and build team cohesion," Capt. Brian C. Harber, B Company commander, said. "I think the training really paid off and I'm really happy with the way it went."
On the way to the top, the Soldiers were taught important survival skills like water purification and wildlife safety. Many of them huddled around a puddle of stagnant rain water to watch as leaders demonstrated the ability to turn parasitic water into purified drinking water using a hand-held pump. The pump proved vital to the mission early on as the Soldiers found themselves low on water with more than 10 miles of hiking to go.
"It just shows that you have to be prepared in a state with such unpredictable weather and terrain," said Pvt. Sean Jephcote, an infantryman.
After a long uphill battle with the mountainside, the soldiers experienced first-hand the benefits of being in Alaska. "You really have to be here to experience and appreciate what Alaska has to offer," Jephcote said. "You can't find this kind of view in the Lower 48."
At the top of the large granite outcroppings, Harber stressed the importance of understanding the surroundings. Knowing how to prepare for the unknown, whether it's -50 or 90 degrees is important for everyone living in Alaska, Harber said.
Immediately following the briefing the Soldiers enjoyed one last glance at Alaska's midnight sun then climbed in their sleeping bags for a short recovery period before the next mission. As 6 a.m. rolled around, the smell of MRE coffee and baby wipes filled the air as they prepared for the long journey home. Before stepping off on the seven-mile trail home, the men gathered around for more mountaineering training - assembling a 3:1 pulley system. For Soldiers the pulley system plays an important part in rough terrain evacuations. According to Harber, the pulley system provides a mechanical advantage moving casualties up and over mountainous terrain while allowing service members to use minimal effort.
On the other side of the towering granite rock, soldiers participated in a range estimation exercise. Using binoculars, they estimated and made adjustments necessary to targeting enemy combatants at long ranges.
As they reached the finish point there was still one more obstacle to overcome - building a rope bridge over the Chena River. Carrying ropes and bogged down by their uniforms, two Soldiers swam across the cold water to hook up a safety line. Once the line was secured soldiers took turns crossing the river using the rope.
"It was a great opportunity for Soldiers to build esprit de corps and maybe give some of them a gut check," Harber said. The extreme cold temperatures and the powerful current made the task very challenging and for soldiers new to the unit like Los Angeles native Jephcote the training offered a glimpse into every challenging aspect of being an Arctic Wolf Soldier and member of the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division.
"Physically, it was very tiring," Jephcote said. "It teaches you that you can never judge a book by its cover."