US soldiers practice Arctic warfare in Lapland

Finnish and American soldiers on the winter war training course in Lapland on January 14, 2016. (Jarmo Honkanen / Yle
Finnish and American soldiers on the winter war training course in Lapland on January 14, 2016. (Jarmo Honkanen / Yle
Together with the Sodankylä brigade, 15 American soldiers are participating in intense winter weather military training in Finnish Lapland.

Dubbed “The Winter War” training course, the Arctic military programme was developed in part by the Södänkylä brigade. The 15 American soldiers who are participating are learning a range of extreme winter skills, from skiing in the dark to surviving in almost -40 degree Celsius temperatures — even after taking a fall in a icy lake.

The demanding course was challenging for everyone, including experienced soldiers.

“It was very tough,” said Barry Izer, a trainer from the US Army enrolled in the course.

“I have done a couple of training sessions in Alaska, like an extreme cold weather course, but this one is by far more strenous. The skiing is difficult,” said Izer.

Tactical skills in extreme weather

According to Izer, in Alaska they navigate by snowshoe during training. In Finland, skiing in white snowsuits for long stretches through forests in the darkness of the polar night provided a whole new set of challenges.

Geri Bush from the American Embassy in Finland’s office of defence cooperation was along observing the training.

Bush said that this type of cooperation is excellent for developing extreme winter weather tactical skills.

“This is special training, which you can’t necessarily get in every place in the world. Finland’s history with winter conditions and with war are also very important. We hope that we can learn a lot, but also that there are some things we can teach. This is mainly a cooperative exercise,” said Bush.

This was the third time the Winter War course was organised.

Related stories from around the North:

Asia: Asia ahead on preparing for polar climate change, says U.S. Arctic rep, Eye on the Arctic

Canada:  Arctic Council Ministerial – Winners and Losers, Blog by Heather Exner-Pirot

Denmark:  Nordics to step up security cooperation on perceived Russian threat, Yle News

Finland: Finland confirms 6th Russian airspace violation in just over a year, Yle News

Iceland: U.S. military could return to Iceland, Barents Observer

Norway: Norway must ramp up military in response to Russia: report, Barents Observer

Russia: Russian governor praises role of Barents Cooperation, Barents Observer

Sweden:  New security landscape in the Arctic, Radio Sweden

United States:  U.S. general says Alaska military cuts not final without Arctic plan, Alaska Public Radio Network


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