By U.S. ArmyJune 24, 2016
Operations in cold and mountainous regions are not new to the US Army. Ever since the Revolutionary War, when the ill equipped and poorly trained Army of General Washington suffered in the cold at Valley Forge, some phase of almost every conflict in which this country has been engaged has been fought in mountains or cold, or both. However, specialized training of units for cold weather and mountain warfare was not seriously undertaken until the approach of World War II.
Training for extended operations in cold and mountainous areas was initiated in November 1941 with the activation of the 87th Mountain Infantry and the Mountain and Winter Warfare Board at Fort Lewis, Washington. Training and testing were conducted by these organizations at Mount Rainier, Washington throughout the winter of 1941 - 1942. These units were later to become the nucleus for the first cold weather and mountain training center to be established by the US Army.
During the period in which the 87th Mountain Infantry was undergoing training at Mount Rainier, plans were being made and a site selected for a center at which an entire division could be trained in the tactics and techniques of cold weather and mountain warfare. A site was selected in the mountains of Colorado, and in 1942, The Mountain Training Center, with members of the 87th Mountain Infantry as a cadre, commenced operations at Camp Hale. Thus was activated the first US Army training center designed specifically for cold weather and mountain training.
Training of the 10th Mountain Division for its future role of fighting in the mountains of Italy was the prime accomplishment of the Mountain Training Center during World War II. However, this was not the only training conducted by the Center. In addition to training many smaller units at Camp Hale, training detachments were sent to such locations as Camp McCoy, Wisconsin; Pine Camp, New York; and Elkins, West Virginia and Adak Island, Alaska to assist in the training of units in the unique requirements of mountain and cold weather operations.
At the end of World War II, the mission of the Mountain Training Center at Camp Hale was moved to Camp Carson, Colorado. Camp Carson was the only US Army Center for this type of training until 1948, when the decision was made to organize a school for arctic operations at Big Delta, Alaska later named Fort Greely.
In November 1948, the Army Arctic School was established at Big Delta with the primary mission of providing instruction in summer and winter operations under arctic and sub-arctic conditions. This training included arctic survival, mountaineering, skiing, and solutions to tactical, technical and logistical problems in cold regions. In July 1949, the Army Arctic School was redesignated the Army Arctic Indoctrination School, with no change in the mission.
For approximately eight years, training in mountain and cold weather operations were conducted simultaneously at Camp Carson, Colorado and Fort Greely, Alaska. However, in 1957 the total responsibility for cold weather and mountain training was transferred to Alaska. The Arctic Indoctrination School was redesignated the US Army Cold Weather and Mountain School and was given the mission of developing cold weather and mountain warfare doctrine, tactics and techniques, and training individuals in these subjects
Throughout the years as the Arctic School, Arctic Indoctrination School, and Cold Weather and Mountain School, training was conducted on an individual basis. Students from reserve component and active Army units throughout the continental United States and Alaska were graduated as instructors in cold weather and mountain operations. However, early in 1963, the Department of the Army concluded that the training in cold weather and mountain operations would be of more beneficial to units than individual training. Therefore, in April 1963, the US Army Cold Weather and Mountain School was redesignated the US Army Northern Warfare Training Center and given the mission of training individuals as well as units in the conduct of warfare in cold and mountainous regions.
Today, The Northern Warfare Training Center is responsible for maintaining the US Army's state of the art in cold weather and mountain warfare. The Center provides training in these subjects to both active and reserve components and assists in the development of tactics and techniques for such operations.