A Tactical Air Detachment from the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) 1 Wing’s 450 Squadron participated in the U.S. Army’s Alaska’s Exercise Arctic Warrior 21 last month.
Taking place in Donnelly Training Area, Alaska, from Feb. 8, 2021, to Feb. 19, 2021, the exercise had CAF personnel participating in various exercise scenarios alongside their American partners to strengthen their ability to operate in Arctic conditions.
U.S. Army Alaska-led Exercise
The U.S. Army Alaska-led exercise tested the ability of the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division (4-25th IBCT) and helped soldiers operate in remote and extreme arctic winter conditions.
Operating out of Fort Wainwright, Alaska, the detachment included two CH-147F Chinook helicopters with approximately 40 CAF members, including air crew, maintainers, and support personnel.
Arctic Warrior 2021 took place in the Donnelly Training Area near Fort Greely in Alaska beginning on February 8th. Air Force personnel and aircraft based at JBER (Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson) and units from Fort Wainwright and the Canadian Air Force supported the exercise.
The exercise consisted of cold weather training readiness and capabilities, current equipment cold-weather capability, and providing detailed feedback and observation of current equipment sets.
Focus of Exercise
Arctic Warrior 2021 also focused on training and development of tactics, techniques, and procedures for deployment operations in an Arctic environment and helps validate the ability to deploy a battalion-sized force package quickly rapidly.
Over the last two decades, deployments have focused on the Middle East, Africa, and Afghanistan, most places where there isn’t an Arctic environment.
Commanding Officer LCol Rob Tyler, 450 Squadron, paraphrased the U.S. Army Alaska Commander (USARAK), Major General Peter B. Andrysiak, in saying that he needs a formation that can operate in the Arctic, not just a formation that lives in the Arctic.
“That was the framework of the exercise. What does it mean to operate in minus 54 Celsius weather? Also, with a big focus on getting initial lessons learned so that this can be done again next year, and it’ll lead to doing better and being better,” says LCol Tyler.
Arctic Warrior depends on joint and multinational partners to succeed, from multiple supporting Army units to Air Force air and ground crews to Canadian partners providing aviation support.
Elements of the 4-25th IBCT executed field operations and cold weather training in the Richardson Training Area of JBER, demonstrating the ability for USARAK to provide command and control of multiple forces physically separated in an Arctic environment.
Tayor says, “the 4-25th IBCT was the brigade that was actually doing the training up in Alaska from the army side, and they provided all the ground forces.”
The 4-25th was focused on the question ‘How do you fight in the Arctic?’ but for the First Battalion of the 52nd Aviation Regiment, it was about what it means when your aircraft is sitting outside for 24 hours or days on end in the cold? How do you warm the aircraft up? How do you do maintenance? How do you refuel aircraft in the cold?
The exercise was meant to test the deployment processes of the units involved and the support agencies and their collective ability to rapidly prepare and deploy forces for extreme cold operations. It also tested subordinate and supporting units’ ability to conduct offensive and defensive operations against a near-peer threat.
It was noted the near-peer scenario helps soldiers and leaders develop and refine the tactics, techniques, and procedures necessary to successfully operate in remote and extreme Arctic winter conditions and overcome environmental and military challenges.
All Arctic Warrior participants operated under comprehensive COVID-19 mitigations that include, but are not limited to, batch and pool testing, social distancing, and the wearing of masks monitoring from on-ground medical personnel, and sanitization of living, dining, work, and medical treatment areas. The exercise concluded on February 19, 2021.