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Making Winter Warriors

Making Winter Warriors

Story by SSG Felix Fimbres on 01/17/2019

The weight of the ahkio pulls against your hips as your feet drive into the snow trying to drag the sled, you try to dig your ski poles into the ground to give yourself a bit more boost but once you get past the snow there’s no extra strength just a thud the ground is frozen solid. It’s many degrees below freezing but your body is warming up and you know that sweating could be disastrous once you stop. Luckily, you’re not alone, your team is with you; both blessing and curse. You want to stop but you can’t let them down. So you dig deeper and push on.

“Being in the North isn’t enough, a lot people think they’re tough in the cold but once you’re out here sleeping in the tents and doing the grunt work it changes, said 2nd Lt. David Stringer, 452nd Combat Support Hospital, Fort Snelling. “It’s a good learning opportunity, learning how to use your equipment effectively we made mistakes yesterday and it’s something I’ll never forget.”

Stringer is one of 30 students participating in the 14-day class. Normally, Stringer is a Registered Nurse at Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis, Minnesota decidedly an indoor occupation, but for the next couple of weeks he’ll be leading a team through harsh winter climates at Fort McCoy Wisconsin during Winter Warfare Training an physically and mental challenging course open to all services.

“Being physically prepared for this course is important, it’s pretty strenuous. At the point you wanted to stop you had to keep going. A lot of my guys said, “I would have stopped a long time ago if you guys where here, you see your buddies on your left and right pushing through the suck, motivating each other and it makes you want to work harder. We’re really capable of doing much more than we think we can it’s about having the mental capacity to push forward.”

Soldiers trekked for miles in sub-freezing temperatures carrying a 70lbs ruck and pulling a 300lb ahkio, a type of sled used by the military in northern climates, up and down hills relying on each other and the training they received from their instructors.

“The course isn’t just about being cold and suffering in the cold, there’s a lot of leadership to be learned and gained during the course. They learn about themselves as well, they learn how to ensure and be mentally resilient in the cold,” said Hunter Heard, Instructor at the Cold Weather Operations Course. “Solider would want to attend this type training if they knew they were going to a cold weather environment or additional experience to add to their kit bag as a leader down the road.”

Heard said that locations like Afghanistan, Northern Iraq, Korea, Germany, are just several of the locations the Army send soldiers to and having this type of training can help them understand the impact of cold weather on their gear and themselves. Even places like the National Training Center in California can become cold weather environments. Temperatures can dip below freezing at night and as high as 80 during the day if you’re not prepared it can really catch you guard.

“You should come to this class if you’re looking to expand your knowledge, learning how to use the cold weather gear effectively is important,” Stringer said. “Team dynamics, knowing how to push through the suck, I had to not only push through it but go the extra level to not just keep myself straight but my guys straight, I have to make sure they’re taken care of, that’s a learned trait.”

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