Soldiers from the Wyoming Army National Guard’s Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 297th Infantry Regiment, based in Afton and Evanston, found out how cold it could get in the Alaska interior, about 90 miles southeast of Fairbanks, during their annual training.
Making first contact with their sister companies and parent unit, 71 Wyoming Army National Guard soldiers traveled to Fort Greely, Alaska, for Arctic Eagle 2018, Feb. 20 through March 8.
“Everyone was really motivated,” said Charlie Company Executive Officer 1st Lt. Luke Meyer, who felt his soldiers did a great job. “No matter the environment, no matter what we threw at them, they were ready.”
Joint training exercise Arctic Eagle consisted of National Guard service members from around the nation and a contingent of Canadian reserves. In one of their training scenarios, the Canadian forces practiced patrolling the Alaska oil pipeline with Wyoming troops. Aside from host state, Charlie Company GIs were joined by fellow Guard members from Colorado, Connecticut, Indiana, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont and Washington. The Alaska State Defense Force provided additional forces.
On top of live-fire exercises, Wyoming soldiers also immersed themselves in arctic weather practices, small-group tactics with the battalion, and military operations in urban terrain.
The arctic weather proved to be a challenge when temperatures dropped to below 38 March 1. Because of variable freezing temperatures, soldiers learned how to evacuate a hypothermic casualty, which included planning small-unit movement over snow-covered terrain, while occupying a patrol base in cold regions.
The soldiers demonstrated effectiveness in arctic skills by preventing weather- related and environmental injuries. They managed risks in cold-region operations successfully protecting themselves and fellow service members. And new to most Wyoming soldiers, they walked in snowshoes, lived in arctic tents, constructed improvised shelters, and performed weapons maintenance in the frigid conditions.
“Cold bagging” was another part of training. This involved Wyoming soldiers sleeping outside of the tents, using only their sleep systems. Pvt. Taylor Leivestad, a squad automatic weapon operator for the company said, “I was cold the whole time, but I learned what not to do. The next time (I went out) I was in a much better situation to keep warm.”
This year’s annual training for C Company culminated with live-fire exercises and applying small group tactics, which provided an initial test of their overall proficiency in infantry tasks.
Arctic Eagle 2018 was a big step in the history of Charlie Company according to battalion commander Lt. Col. Jeffrey Roberts. “We loved having them [the Wyoming infantry company] here.” It marks the unit’s initial training with the battalion since being stood up in June 2016.