Learning Arctic Survival Skills

  • Published
  • By Amy M. Lovgren
  • 133rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs

As the weather finally warmed up in Minnesota, three members of the Minnesota Air National Guard's 133rd Contingency Response Flight (CRF) volunteered to spend most of May at the ice cap in Kangerlussuaq, Greenland. Polar Reach, an international exercise hosted by New York Air National Guard's 109th Airlift Wing, incorporated members of the Royal Canadian Air Force and the 133rd CRF.

U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Jeremiah Wickenhauser, Master Sgt. Cody Hallas and Tech. Sgt. Brian Shuey participated in a 17-day training exercise. They trained with the elite members of the 109th Airlift Wing's Polar Camp Skiway Team (PCST) and their Ski Landing Area Control Officers (SLACO). Both teams trained on all aspects of Arctic operations, including the base camp build-up, Arctic first aid, snowmobile skyway grooming, heater set up, latrine construction, and work-rest cycles.

"This exercise proved to be an excellent opportunity to expand Arctic partnerships within the Air Force National Guard and with our Canadian allies," said Wickenhauser. "The 133rd CRF is the lead Arctic Contingency Response Team across the Air National Guard, and this training helps us fulfill this designation."

For the last two years, COVID-19 has made opportunities like this difficult to complete and continues to provide challenges. The day before the exercise began, several members of the PCST tested positive and could not participate.

"Despite being dealt a difficult hand and losing some participants due to COVID-19 restrictions, the work ethic and professionalism of the members of the 133rd CRF made it easy to accomplish many of our objectives," said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Logan Brennan, Camp Manager, PCST Senior Noncommissioned Officer in Charge from the 109th Airlift Wing. "After seeing how the 133rd CRF handled themselves, I am confident this is a partnership with a strong future."

Despite the challenges, the collaboration and integration with other units improved the resilience and strengthened the relationships of everyone taking part in Polar Reach.

"The 133rd CRF proved its exceptional ability to adapt and overcome in any Arctic environment," said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Matt Sala, 109th Airlift Wing, Officer in Charge of PCST and SLACO. "This training opportunity helped solidify the partnership between the 109th Airlift Wing and the 133rd CRF for future Arctic endeavors."