Arctic tough 1st Sgt. Jonathan M. Emmett leads U.S. Army Alaska Aviation Task Force soldiers assigned to Headquarters Company, 1-52 Aviation Regiment, at Fort Wainwright, Alaska, as they conduct Cold Weather Indoctrination Course II (CWIC) training November 19, 2015. (Photos by Spc. Liliana S. Magers, U.S. Army Alaska Public Affairs.)

As the unconventional conflicts in Syria and Afghanistan draw to a close and the U.S. military again turns its gaze toward nation-level threats, the 75th Ranger Regiment prepares for a conflict in the Arctic.

The Regiment sent almost 30 Rangers from across its three line battalions to attend the Cold Weather Operations Course (CWOC), at Fort McCoy, Michigan, between February 21 and March 6. The CWOC is a two-week course that prepares war-fighters for the arduous and unforgiving conditions of Arctic warfare.

“Building a shelter among other soldiers and being able to stay warm throughout the night was one of the best things I learned in this course,” said Sgt. Paul Drake, from the 3rd Battalion, according to DVIDS. “This training also helped me understand extreme cold weather and how to conserve energy and effectively operate while wearing the Extended Cold Weather Clothing System (ECWCS) uniform properly.”

During the course, the Rangers were instructed on how to construct shelters, forage food, stay warm, move, and fight in extremely frigid environments.

“Living out in the cold for seven days and sleeping in shelters makes me more competent to operate in less-than-optimal conditions,” Sgt. Austin Strimenos, from the 2nd Battalion, told DVIDS. “Other good training included becoming confident with using the Arctic tents and the heaters and stoves and learning about cold weather injuries and treatments. Also, the cross-country skiing and the trail area we used were awesome.”

From the instructor’s point of view, Central Issue Facility Property Book Officer Thomas Lovgren highlighted the strengths of the ECWCS uniform. “It’s a layered system that allows for protection in a variety of climate elements and temperatures. Each piece in the ECWCS fits and functions either alone or together as a system, which enables seamless integration with load-carrying equipment and body armor.”

“The best part of this course is the uncomfortable setting that Fort McCoy confronts the soldiers with during this kind of weather,” said Specialist Jose Francisco Garcia, from 2nd Battalion, in the report from DVIDS. “This makes us think critically and allows us to expand our thought process when planning for future cold-weather operations. It also helps us to understand movement planning, what rations we need, and more.”

There are six CWOC classes per year, and they run from December to March.

The Arctic is a highly disputable region where many countries vie for influence. The European Union, China, Russia, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the U.S. all have some sort of claims to the Arctic and its plentiful natural resources. The 75th Ranger Regiment is the military’s elite light infantry special operations force, capable of deploying in less than 18 hours anywhere in the world. It’s reasonable, thus, for Rangers to prepare for Arctic warfare, given that they will most probably be the first to heed the call if push comes to shove.

On a side note, you know things get real when you see unshaven Rangers. Aside from being the world’s premier light infantry unit, the Army intended the 75th Ranger Regiment to be its model regiment, with high-and-tight haircuts, starched uniforms, and spit-shined boots.

STAVROS ATLAMAZOGLOU Having completed his national service in the Greek army, serving with the 575th Marines Battalion and Army HQ, Stavros is pursuing his passion for history, international affairs, and words at the Johns Hopkins University. You will usually find him on the top of a mountain admiring the view and wondering how he got there.