Unpredictable weather creates unique training adaptions during Cold Response 14

Unpredictable weather creates unique training adaptions during Cold Response 14

An LAV-25, the Marine Corps' flagship eight-wheeled amphibious assault vehicle, sits above the small Norwegian town of Soreisa during Cold Response 14. Cold Response 14 brings together nearly 16,000 troops from 16 countries to train high-intensity operations in the unique climate of northern Norway, above the Arctic Circle. Photo by Sgt Tatum Vayavanda.

BARDUFOSS, Norway (March 16, 2014) - Cold Response 14 brings together nearly 16,000 troops from 16 different countries to northern Norway to train high-intensity operations in extreme cold-weather environments. But a training area filled with snow and Arctic-cold weather conditions was not what U.S. Marines and the multinational force, the majority of servicemembers from Norway, Sweden, Canada, Great Britain, and the Netherlands, were faced with the start of the exercise. It was a greater obstacle; warmer temperatures with wetter conditions.

"The rain has challenged the Marines who were expecting the snow," said LtCol Joel F. Schmidt, the battalion commander of 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division. "33 degrees and raining is always a challenge for Marines out doing patrols, maintaining health while they are moving around when it's cold and wet. But I think the Marines have done extremely well."

CR-14 is a multilateral exercise with more than 16 partner nations above the Arctic Circle to train as one. The exercise includes large-scale troop movements, maritime offloads and positioning, snow-covered foot and mechanized vehicle patrols, amphibious raids, an international brigade of simulated opposition forces, and multinational command-level synchronization in a training area half the size of Connecticut, from the city of Trondheim to the northern city of Bardufoss. 

For an exercise that tests operational capacity under extreme weather conditions, CR-14 has experienced Mother Nature's might and unpredictability with wet, rainy days and strong winds that have challenged the multinational force to adapt to a situation dictated by the climate. 

With weather conditions hovering around the freezing point, 32-degrees Fahrenheit, the weather has proven to be an unpredicted, prevalent obstacle than the expected extreme sub-zero, snowy-but-dry conditions; more water and less snow means more concerns while operating.

"Staying dry, that's the challenge here; it's easy to be cold, it's harder to be cold and wet," said Schmidt. 

But the battalion-minus sized element of Marines have been aided by their host-nation's proficiency and skill; Norwegian allies that understand the climate and how to survive and combat the elements at the tip of the Northern Hemisphere. 

"The weather has been very wet and unique because it's the worst winter we've had for many years in this area," said Norwegian Pvt Morten Aas, a Bandvagn 206 driver integrated with the 2/2 Marines.

Norwegian counterparts have advised Marines on clothing techniques for patrols, tent set ups in the extreme conditions, tips to keep warm, dry and safe, setting up snow walls to protect from the elements, and camouflaging with their Arctic surroundings. 

"For the [Marines], I think there were a lot of things to learn, especially about cold-weather clothing because they are not geared up with the correct gear for this environment; the rain and cold all the time," said Aas. 

The unpredictability of the weather provides a better training situation, where the multinational brigade experienced factors that can't be built into planning nor scheduled.

"There's such a change of weather you can have in these mountains. It's important to learn because it can turn in just half an hour, from sunny to snow to wind and it's a good experience for the Marines to have."

Cold Response 14 is indicative of the commitment of all participating nations to global security and worldwide stability that requires the capacity to operate in any clime and place, from arid deserts through dense jungles and in frigid glaciers. 

"It's really important to know how to operate in the cold," said LCpl Ryan Dole, a Marine with 2/2. "From our instructors and learning from the Norwegians, there are a lot of things you need to know to be able to survive and fight in combat if it ever comes to that situation."

"This is a whole different ball game and it's so important because it's really hard; if you don't know how to do it, you can die out here," said Dole.

For the Marines and their allies, the exercise emphasizes their adaptability to situations and their ability to overcome unpredictable circumstances, even within a training environment. 

"I think it's awesome for the training because we can't predict what's going to happen in the future in a real-world situation," said Dole. "It's tough out here in the cold, but someone has to do it." 

"We've had a pretty decent time. I'm from Upstate New York, so I'm used to the cold, just not this extreme, but we make the best of each situation we can and that's what Marines do," Dole said. 

Cold Response 14 is the sixth iteration of the exercise and has grown from approximately 10,000 international servicemembers since 2006. The exercise will continue to create a robust training environment that will not only build proficiency in extreme Arctic conditions but bolster cohesion, interoperability, and understanding between the 16 different nations while maintaining proven partnerships and alliances between the participating countries. 

Northern Norway has experienced fresh, new snow for the remainder of the exercise, which will run through March 21.

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