On May 1, U.S. Army engineers parachuted into a drop zone above the Arctic Circle—less than a month after Russian soldiers descended on the North Pole. The training exercise is just one part of America’s new Arctic strategy.
The 6th Engineer Battalion jumped near the eerily named town of Deadhorse in Alaska as part of a larger exercise called Arctic Pegasus. The Air Force and Alaska Army National Guard were also involved.
Arctic Pegasus was designed to teach soldiers how to operate in “extreme cold-weather conditions.” The Pentagon is worried it might need troops who can brave severe climates in the near future.
The Arctic has been growing in importance. Global warming is melting the ice—and that’s exposing previously inaccessible mineral deposits and opening up shipping routes.
The Pentagon published its companion Arctic Strategy in November. The Defense Department’s stated goal is “a secure and stable [Arctic] region where U.S. national interests are safeguarded, the U.S. homeland is protected and nations work cooperatively to address challenges”
Since November, troops have begun jumping regularly in the frigid conditions. U.S. Army Alaska is now touting itself as the ground branch’s “premiere Arctic-trained operations command.”
1-40th Cavalry parachuted onto the ice in February to kick off an exercise called Spartan Pegasus. This was the first time soldiers from the 4th Brigade, 25th Infantry Division had jumped so far north, according to the Army.
Last December, paratroopers from 1st Squadron, 40th Cavalry Regiment conducted a rare air drop with full ski gear, depicted here. However, the troopers landed far below the Arctic Circle, in the Malemute Drop Zone at Fort Richardson.
The ground branch is training for more than just airborne operations. Units have been practicing helicopter flights in the extreme cold. During Arctic Pegasus, copters shuttled troops around the icy landscape.
Farther south, U.S. forces in Alaska regularly train just below the Arctic Circle for a variety of missions, including disaster response. Last month, the Army rehearsed what to do after a major earthquake. But polar warfare is foremost in the military’s planning.