Italians teach troops how to navigate winter weather

Capt. Andrew Lutz practices building a shelter during winter-survival training conducted by the Italian military in the mountains near the Austrian border. About a dozen American soldiers from the Southern European Task Force (Airborne) participated in the training.


By KENT HARRIS | STARS AND STRIPES Published: February 5, 2008

There’s no snow these days in Vicenza, but 14 soldiers based at Caserma Ederle spent most of January training in plenty of snow in mountains near the Austrian border.

The soldiers — who came from various units in the Southern European Task Force (Airborne) and U.S. Army Garrison-Vicenza — spent four weeks in a winter-survival course under the tutelage of Italian Alpini officers.

Soldiers received classroom and hands-on training on the equipment that the Italian experts use to operate and conduct rescue operations in the mountains, said 1st Sgt. Greg Hutcheson of the garrison’s Headquarters and Headquarters Company.

They also learned how to build shelters from snow and raw materials, went on patrols and studied survival techniques.

“It was good training,” said Spc. Brian Erickson, who returned to base Friday with the other soldiers. He said the Italians conducting the training “definitely knew what they were teaching.”

Erickson said he had been skiing only a few times before taking the course and doesn’t consider himself an expert. But he said he’s a lot more knowledgeable about what it would take to survive and perform as a soldier in winter conditions.

Hutcheson said that the soldiers who participated will be expected to share their newfound knowledge with others in their units. He said it’s not the first time that soldiers from the base have participated in the training, and that the Army would welcome more opportunities in the future.

“Any time soldiers train in conditions like this, they’ll learn skill sets that they can take with them around the world,” he said.

The training is part of a regular exchange between the two countries. Many Italian troops have undergone combat lifesaver training provided by base personnel recently. Italian troops also regularly use the jump training facilities on base.

American and Italian troops trek through the snow in the mountains near the Austrian border during a winter-survival course offered by the Italian military.

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