DEADHORSE, Alaska (Feb. 26, 2016) -- Paratroopers, with U.S. Army Alaska's 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, performed the largest U.S. airborne mission north of the Arctic Circle in more than a decade during Exercise Spartan Pegasus 15, Feb. 24.
This exercise demonstrated their unique ability to rapidly mass power on an objective in extremely cold and austere environments.
The airborne operation, spearheaded by the Spartan Brigade's 6th Brigade Engineer Battalion, or BEB, inserted nearly 150 paratroopers along with arctic-mobility equipment, including a small unit support vehicle and arctic sustainment gear.
The large-scale exercise involved intricate planning and coordination amongst several military components including U.S. Army Alaska, or USARAK, the Air Force, the Alaska National Guard, and the state of Alaska.
The purpose of Spartan Pegasus was to validate Soldier mobility across frozen terrain, a key fundamental of U.S. Army Alaska's capacity as the Army's northernmost command.
The air support package included two Air Force C-17 Globemaster III aircraft and two Alaska Air Guard C-130 Hercules aircraft to fly the task force more than 800 miles north from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, or JBER, Alaska.
Pegasus was a joint operation. U.S. Air Force Maj. Kirby Chacon, with the Alaska Air National Guard at JBER, said working closely with the Army for Spartan Pegasus helped further relations, and that just being able to practice for real-world applications is important for both branches.
Army Capt. John Kline, commander of Bravo Company, 6th BEB, Spartan Pegasus, said the exercise demonstrated USARAK's unique airborne and arctic skill sets and the unit's ability to work closely with joint military partners.
"We do a lot of joint partnership missions," Kline said. "We work with our Air Force brethren out of JBER and the Alaskan National Guard as well as many other partners from across Alaska."
"This exercise showcases the rapidly-deployable capabilities of the paratroopers," Kline said. "The arctic paratrooper can really survive in extreme conditions and can [deploy] in very short response time."
USARAK is the Army's proponent for extreme-cold-weather training. As home to the Northern Warfare Training Center, USARAK validates the training concepts taught there through operations across the state, including within the Arctic Circle and at the top of Mount McKinley.
Staff Sgt. Nathaniel Wallace, who trained for the extreme cold at the U.S. Army's Northern Warfare Training Center in Black Rapids, Alaska, said the training was beneficial because it taught him key arctic skills that he uses training across Alaska.
"The Northern Warfare Training Center can get a little cold," Wallace joked. "But, it was a good experience. Our equipment allows us to operate down to about negative 40 [Fahrenheit], and coming up here [to Alaska] gave me the unique opportunity to get on skis for the first time in my life. Learning how to ski and how to snowshoe allows us to be more mobile while on the ground."
Adding to the exercise's success was command and control communications provided by the 307th Expeditionary Signal Battalion, 516th Signal Brigade. The mission marked the farthest north a command post node has been established by the unit and was a key factor in the success of the overall mission. The various military components were able to maintain constant contact with each other allowing for efficient order issue and receipt during the entire exercise.
Though the mission was at the top of Alaska, it was tracked within the Department of the Army as an emergency deployment readiness exercise.
With all jumpers and gear safely on the tundra, the airborne team within USARAK once again demonstrated USARAK's ability to work closely with joint military partners to respond to emergencies and contingencies in the harsh, Arctic environment in Alaska and other parts of the Asia-Pacific region.