Braving the Arctic Circle

More than 100 U.S. active duty and reserve special operations forces personnel, along with military members from around the world, convened in northern Norway from Feb. 17 to March 4 to participate in Cold Response 2010. 

Cold Response is a NATO exercise sponsored by Norway to allow military personnel to train in harsh winter conditions. With more than 9,000 military personnel, approximately 1,000 special operations members, and 14 nations represented, it is the largest military exercise in Norway. 

Elements from U.S. Special Operations Command Europe, and U.S. Navy forces from Naval Special Warfare Unit 2, SEAL Team 18, and Special Boat Team 20, took part in the exercise. 

“Our role was primarily one of coaching and mentoring an already excellent Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force staff on staff functions and roles during joint combined operations,” said Sgt. Maj. Greggory Hayes, SOCEUR Operations sergeant major.  “The exercise allowed a unique opportunity to train with the best cold weather soldiers in the world and learn the best tactics, techniques and procedures to not just survive, but to succeed in combat under the harshest conditions.”

Although SOF personnel have been fully engaged in desert and hot weather climates, Hayes mentioned the importance of experiencing training in extreme cold weather conditions as well. Temperatures throughout the three week exercise ranged between 5 and -35 degrees Celsius and often included blistery wind chill conditions.

For the NSWU-2 Detachment and Navy Operational Support Center reserve component Sailors participating in the exercise, learning how to adapt to the elements was critical not just for the fight, but for self-preservation, to include combating cold weather injuries. 

When asked how Cold Response helped him, a master at arms from SEAL Team 18 said, “I learned that layering and hydration are critical, that four meals a day increases your metabolism and warms a cold body, and that the cold is nothing to take for granted. 

“I also learned the role of SSE [sensitive site exploitation] and how it needs to work hand-in-hand with the SEAL teams and other special operations forces to accomplish one team goal,” he added.

Collaborating with the German Kommando Spezialkrafte (known as the “KSK”) and the Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol (LRRPs, pronounced “lurps”), SEAL Team 18 completed both reconnaissance and direct action missions.

Hayes reveled in the opportunity to train in an environment considered one of the harshest — from being able to navigate terrain on skis, submerge in freezing water or maintaining the ability to fire a frozen weapon, SOF personnel must be able to adapt.

“Certainly, special operations is designed to operate in all environments, and therefore must train on core cold weather tasks to remain proficient,” Hayes said. “The environment in Norway, particularly around the Arctic Circle, is very unique. The cold is unlike most places in the world and requires an in-depth look at equipment and procedures to be effective.

“Because of this, we sometimes relearn lessons we forgot and also learn new procedures and evaluate our preparation and equipment in the harsh conditions of the far north. That’s what’s so great about Cold Response; it provided unparalleled training opportunities,” he said.

Editor’s note: Petty Officer 2nd Class Ashley Myers, SEAL Team 18, contributed to this article.

‘I learned that layering and hydration are critical, that four meals a day increases your metabolism and warms a cold body, and that the cold is nothing to take for granted.

Master at Arms

SEAL Team 18 member at CR10