|Vermont School Trains Troops for Afghanistan Terrain |
Vermont School Trains Troops for Afghanistan Terrain
By Staff Sgt. Marcia Triggs, Army News Service.
Washington D.C. -- (ANS) November 21, 2001 -- The concern about whether U.S. troops are trained to fight during Afghanistan's harsh winter was put to rest when officials from the Army's Mountain Warfare School briefed media at the Pentagon Nov. 20.
The Mountain Warfare School in Jericho, Vt., -- run by the Vermont Army National Guard -- trains soldiers in cold-weather operations, specifically mountain mobility, said Lt. Col. Lambert, the school commander. Many of the students are Special Forces or Rangers, Lambert said. The school is not restricted to combat arms, but most of the students are from combat arms units, he added.
The school trains several hundred troops a year, but Pentagon officials said that the school is unable to say if all the soldiers involved in Operation Enduring Freedom are Mountain Warfare trained.
"The school's responsibility is to train soldiers, they have no way of monitoring school-trained students on deployments," said Army spokesman Col. Tom Begines. "I can say that I'm very confident that whatever soldiers have been deployed, they have been very well trained for whatever missions and whatever environment they're in."
Currently soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division, Fort Drum, N.Y., are in Uzbekistan. The 10th Mountain Division and the Mountain Warfare School work together closely, Lambert said. Soldiers from the division train with the school annually and also assist with operations, he added.
"When the school first opened in 1983, most of our first students were from the 10th Mountain Division, and we have a fantastic ongoing relationship," said Col. Gary Varney, deputy chief of staff for operations at the Mountain Warfare School.
Mountaineer training is a grueling two weeks with 15-hour days, Lambert said. Trainers teach soldiers how to use adverse terrain and weather conditions to their advantage, and trainers specialize in how to operate in mountainous terrain, under all climatic conditions, he said.
The school also teaches preventive measures, Lambert said, adding that's critical because Afghanistan gets large amounts of snow, and has a significant amount of varying terrain.
"We train soldiers to be able to take care of themselves and prevent cold-weather injuries, while maintaining the ability to contribute to the mission," Begines said. "Historically many casualties are not from enemy fire, but from the cold weather."
The two-week course is held in the summer and winter. Each season has a different curriculum.
Some of the training held in the summer course is: cliff evacuation; mountain river crossing and balance climbing. During winter training some of the instruction goes over effects of cold weather on weapons, avalanche hazards and rescue, glacial movement operations and bivouac considerations.
Besides the two weeks training troops get when they visit Vermont, installations can request mobile training teams tailored to meet their special needs, Lambert said. Since Operation Enduring Freedom, the requests for the mobile teams have increased, but Lambert did not say how large the increase has been.
"The bottom line is that these skills have always existed widely in the Army," Begines said. "So there is not a shortfall that needs to be met. It's a matter of maintenance and ensuring that the installation continues to train the trainer on a recurring basis."
Cold-weather training is done mainly at the installation level, Lambert said. The school then reinforces unit-level training or trains soldiers to go back to their unit and give the instruction, he said.