Story and photo by Staff Sgt. Michael R. Noggle
10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) Public Affairs Office
Day one was complete … almost.
A Green Beret skins up a short, but steep hill with a rucksack weighing more than 40 pounds and an M4 rifle slung across his chest. The snow had been falling on and off all day, and the Soldier with his team was headed back to base camp after a long day of range operations.
“Have to keep moving,” he said in a low, but assuring, voice. “We have a few miles until we reach camp.”
One week removed from their initial downhill, off-piste refresher training, Soldiers from A Company, 3rd Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne), were enhancing their mountain warfare abilities near Taylor Park Reservoir, Jan. 21-25.
The unit conducted a five-day field exercise which included range operations, building field expedient shelters and medical litters and concluded with a team culmination exercise with movement through back-country terrain.
“This training allows everybody to experience snowy or arctic conditions in which to conduct combat operations,” said Master Sgt. Jim Rainville, Company A, 3rd Bn., 10thSFG(A) team sergeant. “10th Group’s areas of operation can include the Alps, caucuses, mountains or Nordic areas.”
For the majority of the company’s Soldiers, this was the first time they have conducted weather exposure training, aside from the alpine downhill and skinning conducted at Crested Butte a week prior.
“The training has been a great experience and worth doing again,” said a Special Forces weapons sergeant. “It definitely got my feet wet, knowing what’s needed, what kind of equipment you need, how to use it. This will be something I would want to continue training on.”
The first day of training allowed the Green Berets to become familiar with cross-country skinning, skijoring with a snowmobile and learning to shoot on skis and snowshoes. During such times, each individual was carrying 40 to 60 pounds of equipment.
“It’s a lot more difficult. Anything you do in a snow environment is at quarter speed,” Rainville said. “You’re delayed with the cold, trudging through the snow, wearing heavier jackets and restricted movement. It’s a big challenge just showing guys how difficult it is and being able to practice firing off skis. A magazine change is quite a task in itself.”
The following days consisted of the unit learning to survive in a cold weather environment with subzero temperatures; educating themselves on how to build proper shelters as well as moving throughout various terrains during the day and night while pulling their equipment; a full combat load.
“We were taught the proper ways to build shelters and how to stay warm,” said the weapons sergeant.
“It wasn’t too bad staying out at night. If you make a good shelter, you’re going to stay warm at night.”
Rainville, one of only two individuals in the company with mountain-warfare experience, explained the importance for the unit to continue these training opportunities.
“When I was in Kosovo, my team and I did two combat ski patrols,” he said. “If I hadn’t had this type of training, I would have been worthless.”
Most, if not all, of the participants believed the training to be beneficial and would continue to train on their skills.
“It definitely will make everyone here a better operator having learned this,” the weapons sergeant explained. “Everyone knows there limit on what they can handle now.”
Though the number of experienced mountain warfare Green Berets have dwindled in the last decade, Rainville feels those numbers will increase with additional training.
“When I first got to 10th Group, there was a core of guys who did winter warfare training for 15 to 20 years, it was a real good level of experience,” he said. “With most of those guys retired and the war on terror, we’ve lost a lot of experienced guys (in this area) and there are very few left (to pass on their knowledge).”
Rainville finished by adding, “I’m glad to see we’re starting to get back into doing this again. This is something that sets us apart from the other Special Forces units and we have to maintain it.”