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Military officials talk cold-weather fighting, see new technology at Fort Drum Winter Symposium

Soldiers in the Mountain Warfare Course on Fort Drum work together to pull an Ahkio sled containing an arctic tent, fuel, tools and other instruments vital to the course in January 2017. The sled is pulled by four Soldiers to minimize individual fatigue and improve maneuverability.

KELLY SIMON/U.S. ARMY

By GORDON BLOCK | Watertown Daily Times, N.Y. | Published: February 3, 2018

FORT DRUM, N.Y. (Tribune News Service) — As the military prepares for future fights in cold climates, officials spent the week in the north country discussing the strategy and equipment they'll need to be effective.

"You can't stop fighting because there's snow on the ground," said Brig. Gen. Patrick Donahoe, deputy commander of the 10th Mountain Division.

The Fort Drum and 10th Mountain Division Winter Symposium involved leadership from all branches of the U.S. military at locations across the country, along with military representatives from Canada, Italy, the United Kingdom, Croatia and Slovenia.

"What does warfare in arctic temperature look like, how do we prepare for that?" said 1st Sgt. Daniel L. Bryan, of the post's Light Fighter School.

It is only the second time the symposium has been held at Fort Drum, following a much smaller conference in 2016.

The conversations about preparing for the cold have become more relevant in the last year at Fort Drum, as Army officials designated the region as an Arctic Zone for training purposes. The designation comes as the north country region has faced temperatures that have been marked as the coldest in the continental United States. The designation led the post to receive $12.5 million in special cold-weather gear.

Among the stops for symposium attendees on Thursday was the post's Light Fighter School, where soldiers and visiting Marines from Camp Lejeune, N.C., showed off the cold-weather gear as they lifted a casualty to the top of the school's rappelling tower.

Participants also took part in seminars during the week on topics such about high altitude preparation, science and technology available and finding funding for equipment acquisitions.

Over at The Commons on post, vendors set up displays showing off the latest gear in products such as gloves, goggles, skis, radios and clothing.

"The technology has advanced," said Todd Hibbs, a former 10th Mountain Division soldier who works for XGO, a base layer company in North Carolina. "Every three to five years there's drastic change."

Brig. Gen. Brian S. Eifler, 10th Mountain Division deputy commander for operations, said a challenge for military officials is linking operational needs with what is acquired, and getting those supplies in a timely fashion while the materials are still relevant.

"They have the expertise, and we glean that from the civilian sector," he said.

The symposium, ending today, is expected to return to Fort Drum on even-numbered years. The conference will be held in Alaska for odd-numbered years.

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(c)2018 Watertown Daily Times (Watertown, N.Y.)
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