An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Home : News : Article View
NEWS | Feb. 7, 2024

Alaska Army Guard Conducts Cold-Weather Readiness Training

By Balinda O’Neal, Alaska National Guard Public Affairs

BETHEL, Alaska - Bison Company, 1st Battalion, 297th Infantry Regiment, demonstrated readiness and resilience during cold weather training in Bethel Feb. 2-4.

This training marked a significant reunion for the Alaska Army National Guard infantry unit in Bethel, emphasizing the city’s importance as a training ground that challenges Soldiers to adapt and excel in real-world scenarios.

Alaska Army Guard 1st Lt. Troy Irish, Bison Company’s rear detachment commander, said the rugged terrain and extreme weather in Western Alaska provided an ideal testing ground for his Soldiers preparing for Arctic warfare. Bethel, on the Kuskokwim River 340 miles west of Anchorage, set the scene for the training with its snow-covered landscape of tundra marshes and frozen lakes and streams.

“It’s just you, your rucksack, and the terrain,” said Irish, reflecting on the solitude of the tundra. “During our snowshoe ruck, I wasn’t initially sure about my gear —polypro, waffle tops, and [soft shell jacket] — but trusted my noncommissioned officers. Wearing the right gear broke the wind, and I maintained a comfortable temperature, crucial in preventing freezing due to precipitation or sweat.”

For three days, members of the infantry unit rigorously tested their field-craft skills, individual movement over arctic terrain, and arctic transportation proficiency.

The Guardsmen operated small unit support vehicles and slept in the snow. They insulated themselves in temperatures ranging from -10 to -15 degress, equipped with the patrol sleeping bag, intermediate cold weather bag and waterproof bivy cover.

“The sleep systems are rated to a certain negative temperature, and we were nearing that overnight,” said Irish. “So, there were a lot of Soldiers that were kind of cold. But nobody was injured. Nobody was hypothermic.”

The training regimen also included assembling and using the Ahkio Group — a sled with an arctic 10-man tent and other squad cold-weather supplies.

“We’ve talked about them a lot, we’ve done a lot of prep work for them, but I’ve never really been able to truck them out into the field and use them before,” said Spc. Luke Barnes, an infantryman who joined the AKARNG three years ago. 

The company completed a 5-kilometer snowshoe ruck march, pulling the Ahkio group with them. 

Barnes said that while he isn’t a noncommissioned officer yet, he enjoyed the added responsibility of taking care of and leading others.

The unit’s last consolidated training in the area coincided with the 2018 Kuskokwim 300 sled dog race. Training focus shifted as more than 150 Guardsmen from the 1-297th deployed to Kosovo from 2019-2020. Following a month-long rotation at the Joint Readiness Training Center in Louisiana last summer, approximately 100 Bison Company Guardsmen deployed to Kuwait in November as part of Operation Spartan Shield.

The primary training objective in Bethel was to reacquaint themselves with arctic conditions.



Related Articles
Soldiers representing the Army National Guard evacuate a simulated casualty during the 2023 U.S. Army Best Squad Competition at Fort Stewart, Georgia, Oct. 2, 2023. Twelve squads from throughout the Army competed to be named the Army’s Best Squad, and for individual Soldiers to earn the title Soldier or Noncommissioned Officer of the Year.
Army Guard Squad Competes in Army Best Squad Competition
By Sgt. 1st Class Jon Soucy, | Oct. 13, 2023
ARLINGTON, Va. – Under the oppressive Georgia heat and humidity, 12 squads from throughout the Army — including a squad representing the Army National Guard — battled it out at Fort Stewart Sept. 29-Oct. 6 in the 2023 U.S...

An Alaska National Guard HH-60M Black Hawk helicopter from Golf Company, 2-211th General Support Aviation Battalion, conducts a training mission May 31, 2023, near Colony Glacier.
Alaska National Guard Rescues Two Hunters After Plane Crash
By Sgt. Seth LaCount, | Aug. 21, 2023
JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska - The Alaska Army National Guard rescued two hunters 15 miles north of Chakachamna Lake near Merrill Pass Aug. 16.The Alaska Rescue Coordination Center asked the Guard for assistance...

Alaska Army National Guard State Command Sergeant Major John Phlegar and Brig. Gen. James Palembas, commander, Alaska Army National Guard and assistant adjutant general, visit Soldiers of the 297th Regional Support Group participating in Pershing Strike 23 and Mobilization Exercise Level II at Fort Riley, Kansas, July 23, 2023.
Alaska National Guard Soldiers Test Readiness in Exercise
By Staff Sgt. Katie Mazos-Vega, | July 27, 2023
FORT RILEY, Kan. - More than 40 Alaska Army National Guard Soldiers from the 297th Regional Support Group are participating in Pershing Strike 23 and its associated Mobilization Exercise Level II July 7-Aug. 4.In the event of...