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Air National Guard Defenders host Cold Weather Operations Course

  • Published
  • By Audra Flanagan
  • 148th Fighter Wing

DULUTH, Minn. -- 50 Air National Guard Security Forces personnel from 15 states gathered at Camp Ripley Training Center, Minnesota, from January 8-19, 2024, for a two-week Cold Weather Operations Course. 

“Given the complexities of the global security landscape, it is imperative that our Defenders continue to prepare themselves to deploy and fight in the most challenging of circumstances and operating environments,” said Lt. Col. Shawn Stroup, Deputy Director, Force Protection and Chief, Air National Guard Security Forces.  “The Cold Weather Operations Course brought together Security Forces personnel and cadre from across the 90 units in 54 states, territories and delivered its mission to test the mental and physical grit of personnel who may be called to secure the nation’s power projection platforms in sub-zero conditions.” 

Planned and hosted by the 148th Security Forces Squadron, the course taught many techniques required to support base defense missions anywhere, anytime, even in subzero temperatures. The course utilized the crawl, walk, and run style of curriculum, using a combination of classroom and fieldwork-type instruction that culminated with a three-day field training exercise. 

Classroom instruction focused on injury treatment, equipment use, and preparing to conduct military operations in extreme cold.  There were several days of combined classroom and outdoor education where students practiced basic survival skills such as building fires with materials found in nature, hypothermia response, and assembling arctic tent structures.

The event concluded with a three-day field training exercise where class attendees ruck marched long distances in subzero temperatures, built and slept in thermal shelters made from materials found in nature for one night, built and slept in arctic tents for two nights, and responded to challenging scenarios presented by the course instructors.  The course concluded with a cold-water immersion event where students experienced, firsthand, the shock that extremely cold water has on the body. 

Course planner and organizer, Master. Sgt. Heath Parks, 148th Combat Arms Noncommissioned Officer in Charge, said “it was rewarding to see defenders from all over the U.S. succeed as they went through the misery of cold conditions while developing their practical skills of using proper clothing, shelter construction, and emergency preparedness.”

Camp Ripley provided a realistic training environment for students as temperatures during the field training exercise never rose above zero-degrees, while the “feels like” temperatures sunk to -35 degrees.

“The training days were 24-hours,” said Master Sgt. Alexander Cairy, 126th Security Forces Squadron, Scott Air Force Base, Illinois.  “It took mental fortitude to apply what we learned in the extreme cold.”

Stroup, who provided remarks at the course graduation said “on behalf of the NGB/A4S team, I am extremely proud of the trainees who completed the grueling 13-day course and am confident that the lessons learned will shape the way we train and equip our Defenders for future operations, both at home and abroad.”