This is a special guest post from Ken Miller who recently attended the highly regarded Norwegian winter warfare course. -Jack

A few months back my Unit began asking for volunteers to attend the Norwegian School of Winter Warfare. With my time being stationed in Italy coming to a close in 10 months, I jumped at the opportunity to attend since I figured it to be a once in a lifetime opportunity that I was not going to pass up.

The flight into Oslo landed late in the afternoon on an early January day and after rushing to get my bags, I made it onto the last train out of Oslo Airport to Elverum, where the schoolhouse was located. On the train I met a group of Dutch Marine Junior Lieutenants who were also attending the course along with a few of my fellow Paratroopers. Introductions were made and we made small talk until the train pulled into the Elverum station. The conductor pointed us in the direction where we needed to go and, laden with our bags, we made our way the 300 meters to the camp entrance.

The camp itself was relatively small and quiet with a couple guards checking our ID’s and adding us to the class roster. From there a grizzled logistics officer met us and showed us to our barracks. After squaring away my kit, I racked out; tired and jet lagged but excited to start the course.

Day one was for the most part like other military “gentleman’s” courses. We were given an introduction to the course, a class syllabus, assigned an instructor, and broken down into sections. From there it was the standard “death by powerpoint” of classes primarily focused on Cold Weather Injuries and their prevention which was by far the most in-depth I had received in my 11 year Army Career.

Once classes were finished for the day we had what was referred to as an “Ice Breaker” at the bar on the Camp, which involved sharing our expectations for the course with our Instructor and the rest of our section over a pretty decent amount of Norwegian Beer. The rest of the week included a full issue of Norwegian Equipment (which I was a little miffed about considering I had spent close to $700 on my own stuff for the course), getting squad equipment prepped, and ski fitting, followed by a full day of ski instruction, which was particularly challenging for me given that I had never skied a day in my life up to that point.

Week 2 continued with more instruction on safe routing over frozen lakes and through Avalanche Areas, as well as Buddy Rescue techniques utilizing avalanche beacons, probes and shovels, which basically boils down to that if you’re caught in an avalanche and trapped under more than a meter of snow, you’re more or less screwed.

We also did the “Break Through Ice Drill” which consisted of going to a frozen lake with a three meter by three meter hole cut in it, putting on skis and ruck then jumping in, ditching your ruck, and pulling yourself out with ski poles ( think arctic specific Combat Water Survival Assessment). We had another day of practical cross-country skiing with squad equipment, which were pulled in two pulkas (sleighs) rotated through the section essentially turning two members of the squad into human sled dogs. That particular day provided us the opportunity to apply, modify, and perfect the techniques we had been learning the previous week in a practical setting, which included setting up the tent we would be utilizing as well as getting stoves into operation in order to melt snow to provide ourselves with water.