The Army has just released its Arctic strategy. Although it will primarily impact troops stationed in Alaska, the document has global ambitions beyond the northernmost U.S. state.
In 2019, the Department of Defense (DoD) published its most recent Arctic Strategy. Its objective is an Arctic that “is a secure and stable region in which U.S. national interests are safeguarded, the U.S. homeland is defended, and nations work cooperatively to address shared challenges.”
The Arctic is defined as “all U.S. and foreign territory north of the Arctic Circle and all U.S. territory north and west of the boundary formed by the Porcupine, Yukon, and Kuskokwim Rivers; all contiguous seas, including the Arctic Ocean and the Beaufort, Bering, and Chukchi Seas; and the Aleutian islands chain.”
Using this definition, the Arctic encompasses areas of responsibility of three different geographic combatant commands (USNORTHCOM, USINDOPACOM, USEUCOM), eight countries, and all-time zones.
Regaining dominance in the Arctic will additionally provide new opportunities to engage and train with the many allies and partners worldwide who also operate in freezing weather, mountainous, and high altitude environments.
Ryan D. McCarthy, Secretary of the Army, said, “In regaining our Arctic focus, the Army, with our allies and partners, will develop doctrine, training, and equipment to meet the unique requirements of cold weather, mountainous, and high altitude environments. This strategy communicates our objectives and plans to build an army capable of Multi-Domain Operations and regaining Arctic dominance.”
The Arctic, however, is not challenging only because of its frigid temperatures. In most instances, mobility is actually the highest in the winter. Rather, the most challenging period is the spring when, due to the thaw, ground movement becomes impossible across much of the Arctic. The Arctic summer also poses significant challenges for many wheeled vehicles.
The Northern Warfare Training Center (NWTC) at Ft. Wainwright, Alaska, is the Army’s proponent for cold region training. It provides premier cold weather (CW) and mountain warfare training to U.S. and partner nation forces to enhance warfighting capabilities thus create credible combat soldiers and leaders.
NWTC offers courses that train unit leaders and individual soldiers to conduct small unit operations in cold, snow-covered environments and mountainous terrain. NWTC graduates provide their units with vital expertise and are simultaneously a means of sustaining institutional knowledge.
The Army Mountain Warfare School (AMWS) in Jericho, Vermont, provides tactical and technical training for mountain warfare and cold weather operations to allow graduates to use adverse terrain as a combat multiplier.
With 38 percent of the world’s landmass classified as mountains, the AMWS enables the Army to provide forces to deter conflicts, resist coercion, and defeat aggression in mountainous and other areas.
The United States is an Arctic nation whether we know it or not. The Army is responsible for providing Arctic-capable forces to support joint all-domain operations in defense from the region’s threats. It must also provide and sustain Arctic-capable forces for employment outside of the area as necessary. Therefore, the Army is an essential part of ensuring land dominance in support of the joint force in the all-domain environment.
The Army’s ability to compete in the region creates problems for adversaries, such as Russia, seeking an Arctic advantage. Working together with allies and partners, the Army supports the Arctic region’s stability in furthering the U.S. objectives.