Canadian Soldiers compete in skiijoring at the annual U.S. Army Alaska Arctic Warrior Games at Birch Hill Ski and Snowboard Area Feb. 28. The games tested 17 teams from across USARAK and the Canadian Army on a variety of cold weather and mountaineering Soldier skills. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Sean Brady)
Soldiers with 1st Battalion, 5th Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, U.S. Army Alaska participate in the Ahkio sled pull and stress shoot. After each 200-meter lap, the team fired at targets at a nearby small arms range and were graded for accuracy. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Joel Gibson)
FORT WAINWRIGHT, Alaska —
As temperatures plummeted into the negative 20s, warriors in 17 10-Soldier teams from across U.S. Army Alaska and the Canadian Army competed in a series of cold weather and mountainous warrior tasks Feb. 27 to March 2.
A team from 5th squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, prevailed, scoring the highest point total.
The annual USARAK Winter Games, held this year at Fort Wainwright’s Birch Hill Ski and Snowboard Area involved teams competing in a ski biathlon, written test, ahkio snowshoe towing with stress shoot, casualty evacuation and treatment, tent setup, downhill skiing, skijoring, and land navigation.
1st Lt. Michael McKeon, the Team Leader for Team 15, the winning team, and a platoon leader with 5/1 CAV, and Enterprise Ala. native, said, "It's important because it helps individuals training on these specific events, that they can then take back to their units."
"Like for us, we're the ski platoon for our troop, and we didn't get really good at it until we were forced to train for this competition, and now we're excellent at skiing and can take that back to our unit."
The event, like any other competition served a variety of purposes.
"This process started three and a half to four months ago," said 1st Lt. Christopher Rainsberger, Arctic Warrior Games Officer in Charge and a platoon leader with Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 5-1 CAV, and a Fort Worth, Texas native.
Rainsberger said, "Events like this are extremely important for USARAK because one of the main things that the units up here focus on is Arctic mobility and Arctic skills."
"These events are an excellent way to train for that and to show how well your squad or your team is proficient at skiing, and setting up 10-man tents, and shooting in Arctic conditions under stress."
""All the effort and the heart the teams put into practicing really shows the teams are competing," "The teams we see out practicing weeks, months before the event, there's a lot of camaraderie with those teams."
As America’s Arctic Warriors and the U.S. Army’s experts in surviving, operating, fighting and winning in extreme cold weather and high altitude environments, proficiency in all of the skills tested during the games are critical for all USARAK Soldiers. These games validate their expertise and set a benchmark of excellence for all Arctic Warriors.