Articles

This extreme winter survival course teaches troops how to stay alive in Arctic conditions

Few places on the face of the earth can be as unforgiving or as deadly as the frozen Arctic.


Because of the dangers of the Arctic environment, coupled with the growing strategic importance of this part of the world, the US Air Force runs the Arctic Survival School out of Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska.

Each year, this five-day intensive training program, also known as Cool School, teaches over 700 servicemembers the survival skills necessary to fight back against nature and survive in the Arctic.

"Mother nature does not like you in this situation," Survival Instructor Staff Sgt. Seth Reab, tells his students in the morning freeze. "She's violent. She's harsh. Your job is to survive until help comes; her job is to find a way to take your life."

The Air Force's Cool School, which brings in more than 700 participants every year across all service branches, takes place outside Eielson Air Force Base, deep inside Alaska. Temperatures average about 30 degrees below zero.

Photo: Staff Sgt. Vernon young Jr./USAF

At the start of the course, all participants are given the emergency equipment they would have depending upon what plane they would be flying.

Photo: YouTube

The emergency equipment usually works. But everything else in the Arctic will try to kill the participants. This includes subzero temperatures ...

Photo: YouTube

... and even dehydration. Despite the abundance of snow, it is extremely difficult to drink enough water under harsh Arctic conditions.

Photo: YouTube

One of the first things students are taught is to harvest snow in parachutes, in order to melt it down for water.

Photo: Staff Sgt. Vernon young Jr./USAF

This supply of snow can then be moved into tin cans, in which the snow can be mixed until it melts enough to easily drink.

Photo: Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr./USAF

Warmth is just as important as water. Students are taught to find tender wood with which to build a fire.

Photo: Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr./USAF

In Cool School, students are taught the ideal way to split wood into longer thin splints that will burn more easily and evenly.

Photo: YouTube

Servicemembers learn to create sparks with a metal match. Though somewhat antiquated, metal matches can be used indefinitely.

Photo: YouTube

Once students create a fire, it can be used for signaling, heat, and food preparation.

Photo: Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr./USAF

Students also learn more basic practical skills — they have to change socks in order to keep feet dry so as to avoid hypothermia.

Photo: Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr./USAF

On the first night of school, students are taught to create open primitive shelters that provide little insulation from the elements.

Photo: Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr./USAF

Staff Sgt. Joseph Reimer unpacks his duffle bag during the first night of arctic field training near Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. The course is five days in duration with instruction in familiarization with the arctic environment, medical, personal protection, sustenance and signaling. Reimer is an explosive ordnance disposal technician assigned to the 354th Civil Engineer Squadron

During the second day, instructors teach students to make more complex A-frame shelters out of wood and a parachute or tarp.

Photo: Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr./USAF

Airman 1st Class Ray Simon prepares the cover for his thermalized A-frame shelter during arctic survival training at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. The A-frame shelter is designed to keep the survivor warm and dry to endure harsh arctic nights. Simon is a 3rd Maintenance Support Squadron crew chief.

The A-frame is then covered with almost a foot of snow to provide insulation.

Photo Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr./USAF

Airman 1st Class Ray Simon looks out of his thermalized A-frame tent during Arctic Survival School training. The thermalized A-frame is designed to keep survivors warm and dry in arctic environments. Simon is a 3rd Maintenance Support Squadron crew chief and also a member of a crash disable damage recovery team responsible for retrieving downed aircraft in emergency situations.

Another vital principle of survival students learn is how to create an effective signal fire by placing a flare inside a base of kindling and smoke-generating tree limbs.

Photo: Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr./USAF

Staff Sgt. Seth Reab ignites a flare in the middle of tender wood to create a smoke signal during a field training lesson at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. The signal flare can be seen for up to 10 miles away and much further when rescue help is coming through the air. Reab is an Air Force Arctic Survival School instructor assigned to Det. 1, 66th Training Squadron at Eielson AFB.

Next to the smoke signal, students create a giant letter 'V' to alert passing pilots that they are in need of rescue.

photo: YouTube

You can watch a recap of the Arctic Survival School below.

More from Business Insider:

This article originally appeared at Business Insider Defense Copyright 2015. Follow BI Defense on Twitter.

Entertainment

5 times Americans left to fight in foreign wars

In the past few years, dozens of veteran and civilian Americans left the comfort and safety of their homes to tackle what they saw as an unspeakable evil growing from the Middle East — the Islamic State. A new television documentary series from History followed those Americans as they fought with Kurdish fighters in Syria. The show pulls no punches in showing what combat looks like on the front lines of the fight against the world's most ruthless terrorists.

You can catch Hunting ISIS every Tuesday at 11pm on History but read on and learn about how and why Americans fought the good fight long before their country was ready.

"I heard the stories, I knew that ISIS was evil," says PJ, a Marine Corps vet who served in Iraq. "But you can never understand the brutality that they're capable of until you see it with your own eyes... Most people in America aren't able or willing to come over here," he says. "And for them, I will carry what weight I can."

Keep reading... Show less
Articles

This Microsoft training fast tracks veterans into sweet tech careers

Solaire Brown (formerly Sanderson) was a happy, gung-ho Marine sergeant deployed in Afghanistan when she realized her military career was about to change. She was tasked with finding the right fit for her post-military life – and she knew she wanted to be prepared.

Injuries sustained during mine-resistant vehicle training had led to surgeries and functional recovery and it became clear Brown would no longer be able to operate at the level she expected of herself as a Marine.

Like many of the 200,000 service members exiting the military each year, Brown knew her military training could make her a valuable asset as an employee, but she was unsure of how her skills might specifically translate to employment in the civilian world.

Enter Microsoft Software & Systems Academy (MSSA), a program Microsoft started in 2013 to provide transitioning service members and veterans with critical career skills required for today's growing technology industry.

Keep reading... Show less
NEWS
Melia Robinson

Why splitting California into 3 made the November ballot

Tim Draper is known for having crazy ideas — and for funding them.

Now, the legendary Silicon Valley investor is making headway on a longtime and perhaps unrealistic effort to split California into three states: Northern California, California, and Southern California.

Draper's proposal to cut up the Golden State qualified on June 16, 2018, to appear on the ballot in November 2018's general election. It received more than 402,468 valid signatures, more than the number required by state law, thanks to an ambitious campaign called Cal 3 and financial backing from Draper, an early investor in Tesla, Skype, and Hotmail.

Keep reading... Show less
Articles

This band hires vets — especially when they go on tour

As veterans re-enter the civilian workforce, many struggle to make the transition. This is why opportunities (ahem — touring with famous heavy metal bands) for employment are so important. Five Finger Death Punch has made it a mission to offer such opportunities.

Keep reading... Show less
NEWS
Christopher Woody

Why China's President warned Obama about 'immature leaders'

Days after Donald Trump won the 2016 US presidential election, Barack Obama left the country for his last trip abroad as president.

The trip took him to Greece, Germany, and finally Peru, where he attended the 2016 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit. Throughout the trip, anxious world leaders greeted Obama, inquiring about the man who would soon occupy the Oval Office.

That sentiment was on display in Lima, where "Obama was pulled aside by leader after leader and asked what to expect from Donald Trump," the former deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes wrote in his memoir of his time in the White House, "The World as It Is."

Keep reading... Show less
NEWS
John Haltiwanger

Trump and Mattis go 'good cop, bad cop' on Putin

President Donald Trump and Defense Secretary James Mattis offered strikingly different perspectives on Russian President Vladimir Putin in the course of just a few hours on June 15, 2018.

Speaking with reporters outside of the White House, Trump blamed former President Barack Obama, not Putin, for the annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea in 2014.

"President Obama lost Crimea because president Putin didn't respect President Obama, didn't respect our country and didn't respect Ukraine," Trump said.

Keep reading... Show less

5 things about the M16A4 that you complained about

The M16A4 was the standard service rifle for the Marine Corps until October, 2015, when it was decided that the M4 Carbine would replace them in infantry battalions. For whatever reason, civilians tend to think the M16A4 is awesome when, in reality, it's actually despised by a lot of Marines.

Now, the M16A4 is, by far, not the worst weapon, but it didn't exactly live up to the expectations laid out for it. They're accurate and the recoil is as soft as being hit in the shoulder with a peanut, so it certainly has its place. But when Marines spend a considerable amount of time in rainy or dusty environments, they'll find it's not the most reliable rifle.

Here are some of the major complaints Marines have about the weapon:

Keep reading... Show less
GEAR & TECH

The Army has a dream team working on its robotic future

As part of a strategy to develop and deliver new robotics capabilities to future soldiers, Army researchers have partnered with world-renowned experts in industry and academia.

The University of Pennsylvania hosted a series of meetings in Philadelphia, June 5-7, 2018, for principal investigators and researchers from the Army's Robotics Collaborative Technology Alliance, or RCTA.

Keep reading... Show less