Story by Daisy Bueno.
Special Operations Forces (SOF) from the Army, Navy, Air Force worked with the U.S. Coast Guard, international partners, local and state police, interagency and Alaskan natives to execute extreme cold weather training, expand survival skills and test arctic equipment during exercise Arctic Edge, Feb. 28 – March 17, 2022.
Arctic Edge is an arctic-focused U.S. Northern Command biennial exercise hosted by Alaskan Command. This year, Special Operations Command North (SOCNORTH) not only amplified its participation and training scenarios, but it was the first time it tested its capability to quickly mobilize its headquarters from Colorado Springs, Colorado, to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage, Alaska. The ability to mobilize, deploy and establish a Joint Force Special Operations Component Command (JFSOCC) to command-and-control SOF units is a critical task for SOCNORTH’s homeland defense mission.
Exercises like Arctic Edge, give SOCNORTH the platform to demonstrate its proficiency to rapidly deploy, operate, and conduct command and control of SOF units in the Arctic. The exercise also provided an opportunity to test tactics and field equipment in severe cold temperatures.
“Special Operations Forces tested equipment and looked at innovative ways to not just survive in the Arctic but thrive in the Arctic,” said Brig. Gen. Shawn Satterfield, commander, Special Operations Command North. “They also developed relationships within local communities to include Alaskan natives, gaining knowledge from their techniques, practices and procedures on how they succeed in the cold weather.”
In northern Alaska, also known as the ‘The High North’, 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) and 19th Special Forces Group (Airborne) conducted a series of long-range snowshoe and snow machine movements along the North Slope, Arctic Ocean, and Bering Strait while integrated with state/local law enforcement and Alaskan tribal organizations in harsh weather. Additionally, both units worked heavily with local and federal agencies to provide integrated deterrence under a homeland defense scenario. 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) Green Berets then utilized 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment MH-60 Blackhawks to exfiltrate after a multi-day movement through the intense Arctic environment.
In southern Alaska, operating on Kodiak Island, U.S. Navy SEALs enhanced techniques and procedures for prospering in the cold maritime environment, by testing gear and conducting various reconnaissance training during the day and night. In Juneau, U.S. Navy Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewmen partnered with the U.S. Coast Guard Maritime Security Response Team for special reconnaissance training on protecting critical infrastructure.
In addition, SEALS conducted several Military Free Fall jumps into Deadhorse, Alaska, on the northern coast of Alaska. During the final jump, they landed on an ice flow 177 nautical miles off land in the Arctic Ocean. Once they landed on the ice, they rendezvoused with the USS Pasadena submarine, which breached upward to four feet of ice in locations, as part of a U.S. Navy exercise, ‘ICEX’, that was taking place concurrently with Arctic Edge.
Air Force Special Operations Command also played an integral part in providing intra-state transportation throughout the exercise, as only 20 percent of Alaska is accessible by roads.
SOF regularly trains in this unforgiving climate to be effective in the Arctic, but they don’t do it alone. “Our partners and allies are absolutely critical and foundational to our mission at SOCNORTH,” added Satterfield. “We train and coordinate with Canadian SOF routinely and Danish Special Operations observed Arctic Edge this year. We want to partner with allies that have interest in protecting our lands and approaches in the Arctic. Partnerships are critical in building all-domain awareness across U.S. Northern Command’s area of responsibility.”
Arctic Edge is a large-scale exercise that gives SOCNORTH not only the opportunity to test all its capabilities in the Arctic, but to strengthen partnerships and collaborate with new allies. SOF continues to chart new territory in the Arctic in support of Homeland Defense under the direction of Special Operations Command North.
Story by Maj. Daisy Bueno of U.S. Special Operations Command North was originally published on April 7, 2022 by the Defense Visual Information Distribution Service. DVIDS published content in the public domain.
Photo: U.S. Army Special Forces assigned to 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) prepare their equipment for exercise Arctic Edge in Noatak, Alaska, March 3, 2022. Arctic Edge 2022 is a U.S. Northern Command exercise hosted by Alaskan Command enabling Special Operations Command North (SOCNORTH) to demonstrate its special operations capabilities in extreme weather conditions. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Stefan English)