“Mechanics are some of the hardest working people in the field,” said Brig. Gen. Louis Lapointe, deputy commanding general of operations for U.S. Army Alaska.
“The greatest things about the Arctic is it forces Soldiers to be creative and find a way to work around it,” said Lapointe.
Soldiers from across the United States are participating in Joint Pacific Multinational Readiness Center 22-02, a joint training exercise taking place in the Donnelly Training Area near Ft. Greely, Alaska.
JPMRC 22-02 is the first Regional Combat Training Center rotation in Alaska. It focuses on Large Scale Combat Operations and tests the combat readiness of the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, while paratroopers from 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division act as the opposition force.
For Soldiers stationed at bases like Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson and Fort Wainwright, this is not their first time training in Alaska’s harsh winter environment. However, whether they are unfamiliar with the elements or not, Soldiers know things have to keep moving and people have to stay warm.
This is where the Paratroopers of Company B, 725th Brigade Support Battalion, 4-25 IBCT (ABN), apply the essential support necessary to keep the mission going.
Soldiers from the maintenance company out of JBER arrived to Donnelly Training Area’s intermediate staging base February 20, making them the first unit to arrive in preparation for the historic exercise rotation in Alaska.
Since arriving to DTA, these maintainers fixed approximately 200 faults on light-wheeled vehicles and approximately 25 heaters and generators for various task forces participating in JPMRC 22-02. They also completed 20 vehicle recovery missions thus far in the exercise.
This is no easy feat, as they do not have access to the normal heated maintenance garages they are used to and have to navigate the snowy and icy terrain.
Capt. Lance Cole, company commander said, “It is absolutely critical for our Soldiers to work in this Arctic environment, not only for their own safety but for training purposes as well. We are the first ones in and will be the last ones out (after the exercise ends).”
With cold temperatures and icy conditions serving as an obstacle, Soldiers can expect things such as vehicle maintenance and the breakdown of equipment to require more attention than normal.
Spc. Bryan George, a wheeled vehicle mechanic, described some of the challenges of performing his job in the bitter winter temperatures.
“It’s hard for me to get into some of those tighter spaces (on a vehicle) because of the bulky gloves we wear,” George said. “You don’t want to get contact frostbite or touch anything metal-to-metal, so you have to take some time to warm up and not stay outside for too long.”
Despite learning how to adapt to the climate differences, George thinks the training will help him and any Soldier in the future.
“You need to be prepared for anything that happens,“ George said. "I think these conditions are perfect to train in because everyone needs to be trained in any type of environment."
With that in mind, one of the greater challenges of training in an Arctic environment is staying warm and avoiding cold weather injuries. Heaters are a crucial piece of equipment for surviving the winter while in the field, especially since the first few days of the exercise brought negative temperatures and a brutal wind chill.
This keeps the unit’s team of eight generator and heater repair specialists engaged and busy and brought them closer together.
Sgt. Miguel Cortes, a utilities equipment repair specialist on his second training rotation in an Arctic environment, said the team is better off because of their experience in this rotation.
“It has been a great experience for us,” Cortes said. “It does build character because we are constantly in each other’s space, so it makes us learn how to work better together.”