Stars and Stripes/Associated Press
May 12, 2022

Army poised to revamp Alaska forces to prep for Arctic fight

The U.S. Army is poised to revamp its forces in Alaska to better prepare for future cold-weather conflicts, and it is expected to replace the larger, heavily equipped Stryker Brigade in the state with a more mobile, infantry unit better suited for the frigid fight, according to Army leaders.

Army Secretary Christine Wormuth said she expects to make a final decision soon about the Alaska troop change….

“I think right now the purpose of Army forces in Alaska is much more about creating an extreme cold weather capable formation” that could be used in Europe or the Indo-Pacific, Wormuth told The Associated Press on a recent trip to Alaska to meet with senior commanders and troops. “We’re trying to get to a place where we have Arctic capable forces – forces that can survive and operate in that environment.”

The U.S. has long viewed the Arctic as a growing area of competition with Russia and China, particularly as climate change brings warmer temperatures and opens the sea lanes for longer periods of time….

***

Under the new Army plan, the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, now based in Alaska, would be converted to a light infantry brigade. Combined with the division’s 4th Infantry Brigade Combat team, the two units will become the 11th Airborne Division, based in Alaska. And the large Stryker vehicles, which are somewhat old, would be replaced by other vehicles that are more suitable for the icy and snowy terrain, Wormuth said.

The greater focus on cold-weather war includes a move to conduct major training exercises for the Alaska-based troops in their home state, under the weather conditions they would face in an Arctic fight. The troops had been scheduled to go to the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, Louisiana, in March, but Army leaders decided to keep them in Alaska so they could train under the frigid temperatures and frozen terrain that they would encounter in any cold-weather battle.

***

During briefings at the Alaska base, commanders said the training included large-scale combat operations under extreme weather conditions in what they called the “most challenging environment on earth.” They said that 10,000 troops – including Canadian Army and Air forces – were involved in the exercise.

***

Commanders said there are questions about whether one of the Pentagon’s combatant commands – such as European Command or Northern Command, based in Colorado – should take full ownership of the Arctic and the U.S. military role there….