Bus ride to Hell, part two

veteran’s corner

Tom Krabbenhoft

Upon arriving north to Ft. Wainwright we were assigned units. They were an aviation BDE unit compromised of mostly helicopters and generally pretty good living conditions with 2nd BDE, Sixth Infantry Division TOC (tactical operations center).

The three of us assigned to the Infantry agreed I would take the first rotation in the field as the operation tempo was set to increase.

I arrived to the BDE with enthusiasm, it was soon stolen. The NCOIC never knew I was coming. Meaning no extra food, H2O or even sleeping space for me. Meaning I had to hustle for everything. I never did get to thank the West Pointer that sent me into the wild unprepared.

The first day was good. Humor and knowledge will open doors in the service.

The second day was more setting up for the exercise launch. It was going to be a busy few weeks.

 Then tragedy struck. A Canadian C-130 aircraft crashed when landing at Fort Wainwright on 29 January, killing 9. It was the second of three Canadian C-130s scheduled to land. The first landed safely and the third diverted elsewhere.

Due to the air crash and deadly cold weather most of the units that were going to participate in operation Brim Frost canceled. This was a good decision, for safety sake.

When this happens everything stops and meant I was stuck out in the field until further notice.

The TOC I worked in was several tents set together. Maps were hung about the place and all the elements represented infantry, artillery, armor etc.

The tents were heated by yukon stoves. It is a thin metal box with a large gas burner in it. The only way this could’ve been more dangerous is to light a fire in the tent itself. These would burn so hot they would glow and the sides would flutter. Our work area with several of these running ground level were temperatures -10, eye level 30. One evening I woke to yelling. The large tent I was sleeping in was on fire. Someone leaned something against the tent causing the canvas to touch the stove.

UP- Urination Point. One thing you’d never think of is hundreds of people spritzing all over the woods. A flyover can detect this. A UP is simply three sticks tied with a colored ribbon, where business is conducted. A large pile of snow was close that could be kicked to conceal the spot.

I don’t recall how many days I spent outside before they deemed it was safe to travel. I returned to cantonment covered with soot, exhausted and half frozen.

No two deployments are ever the same and this holds true for Alaska.

The recorded temperatures in AK at that time dipped to -80s below with official temperatures in Fairbanks -67. American record high atmospheric pressure of 31.85 inches was set.

Certainly not camping weather.


Stories, events comments contact me at 11btwk@gmail.com

Comments are closed.

  • Facebook