An army officer is leading a delegation on a visit to Army in Alaska.

The German Army recently visited Alaska to observe US Army’s arctic training and facilities, hoping to boost cooperation. The headquarters of the German Army, the Bundeswehr, the 1st Airborne Brigade, and the 23rd Mountain Brigade were among those who began their trip at Joint Base Elemendorf-Richardson. They met with the 11th Airborne Division leadership, saw static displays, and were taught about cold weather medical evacuation procedures, among other things.

The German Army visited the US Army’s arctic training and facilities to increase cooperation concerning arctic exercises.

US Army Maj. Jeffery Fritz is part of the US Army Headquarters International Cooperation section in Strausberg, Germany, and helped organize and lead the delegation as part of the Military Partnership Exchange Program.

According to Fritz, the creation of the German Army’s interest in Alaska began with the release of the February 2021 US Army Arctic strategy, Regaining Arctic Dominance.

Fritz said the German Navy and Air Force have already visited with their US counterparts in the Pacific theater over the last two years.

“The purpose of this visit is to exchange tactics, techniques and procedures from lessons learned during operations in Arctic climates, identify potential opportunities for collective training with the brigades and division there, and identify opportunities for increased bilateral individual training opportunities at the Northern Warfare Center in Alaska,” said Fritz.

Representatives from the German Army headquarters, the Bundeswehr, and its 1st Airborne Brigade and 23rd Mountain Brigade began their visit at Joint Base Elemendorf-Richardson. During their stay, they met with 11th Airborne Division leadership, viewed static displays, and received briefings on cold weather medical evacuations, among other issues.

Lieutenant Colonel Patrik Martin, the training director for the 23rd Mountain Brigade, wants to gain knowledge about the environment, climate, training possibilities, equipment use, and training facilities.

The delegation’s final leg included visiting Fort Wainwright and the Black Rapids Training Site. The 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment of the Fort Wainwright Military Base, offered a ski outing at Birch Hill Recreational Area in the dark. Everyone donned headlamps and strapped on issued skis to go up the hill, get cushioned ski runs, and return again. The fresh snow that fell the previous night made for cushioned ski runs.

 “It’s great to welcome our Bundeswehr partners … the Arctic is a frontier that we really haven’t worked together too much on in the past two decades, with the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, and so it’s great to have our partners here to be able to continue to build this capability as we look toward to the future of NATO’s defense,” said Lt. Col. Jonathan Doiron of 3-21.

After their ski session, the group walked through a display of skis, snowshoes, arctic tents, heaters, and the Army’s 7-layer comprehensive climate warfighter clothing system, better known as ECWCS. In addition, they viewed Battalion and company areas and indoor training facilities.

UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter
(Source: USA NATO/YouTube Screengrab)

Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 52nd Aviation Regiment provided a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter to fly the delegation to Fort Greely on the last day of the visit. Jim Fraijo, the deputy commandant of the Northern Warfare Training Center, showed the group around the classrooms, living and dining areas, and a portion of the training area.

According to Fraijo, NWTC provides courses in basic and advanced military mountaineering, mountain warfare, cold weather orientation, and cold weather leadership. Students from the US Army are the majority, but students from other Defense Department branches, various federal agencies and law enforcement organizations, and foreign militaries are also welcome.

Students can participate in the Army’s program of instruction, or external agencies can use the facility to run their own training programs, something the German Army may be interested in doing, Fraijo said.

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Martin said he imagines German soldiers returning to Alaska to train at Black Rapids, but any final decisions would be made above his level.

“The coldest winters in our region rarely drop below -20 °C (-4 °F), so you will be warm. In Norway, where the Bundeswehr trains a lot, the weather is frigid but the elevations are modest. We’ve been seeking areas where both are present at the same time, and Black Rapids appears able to provide us with both.”

“The purpose of the trip was to build professional ties and establish a foundation for expanded interoperability between the United States and German Armies. As NATO allies, we must continue to grow and train together as a collective defence for all NATO nations. We shared lessons learned about operating in high altitude and severe cold weather environments, setting the stage for future cooperation as we work to provide well trained, ready, and interoperable forces for NATO employment.”

The Joint Pacific Multinational Readiness Center exercise, which will take place in the spring and welcome the 11th Airborne Division, will again host representatives from the Bundeswehr.

Senior officials from the German Army recently visited Alaska to observe the US Army’s arctic training and facilities to increase cooperation on arctic training. The headquarters of the German Army, commonly known as the Bundeswehr, as well as its 1st Airborne Brigade and 23rd Mountain Brigade, began their visit at Joint Base Elemendorf-Richardson. After meeting with 11th Airborne Division leadership and seeing static displays, they learned about cold weather medical evacuations, among other things.

H/t: US Army