U.S. Special Operations soldiers participated in this year's Arctic Edge 23 exercise, preparing for combat in the deadliest region of the world where temperatures routinely drop twenty or thirty digits below freezing.
The Arctic area of responsibility (AOR) falls under the purview of Northern Command (NORTHCOM) which is one of eleven combatant commands worldwide. One of NORTHCOM's primary responsibilities would be responding to an invasion of America.
The arctic is a unique AOR due to the freezing temperatures, sparse population, and large distances that troops need to cross and the difficulties in resupplying them.
The chances of a land war in the Arctic region (such as currently seen in Ukraine) are slim to none due to the difficulties in maintaining large troop formations in such an austere environment, although arctic battles have taken place between the Finns and the Soviets and near the Arctic circle when American and Japanese troops fought for the Aleutian Islands during World War 2.
During Arctic Edge 23, Special Operations soldiers practiced shooting, moving, and communicating, all of which are much more difficult in the Arctic where movement is often across snow and ice, and the freezing conditions sap the life out of batteries.
One part of Arctic Edge saw SOF training at Pituffik Space Base located in Northern Greenland, a strategic location that plays heavily into American early warning and missile defense. In a potential arctic war, SOF would likely be assigned missions including special reconnaissance, search and rescue, and potentially even sabotage missions behind enemy lines.
“Realistic, iterative exercises like Arctic Edge 23 increase operational capability across the joint special operations community to better prepare the force for competition and conflict in the high north,” said Army Col. Matthew Tucker, commander Special Operations Command North.
“This arctic-focused exercise provides us an opportunity to hone current capabilities and test the next-generation systems necessary to secure the homeland.”