With the arrival of the first cold snap we question both our sanity and geographical choices. I know I do. Up here in the north know however with cold weather life goes on. Same goes for military life.
My own participation in one of the coldest operations in US military history has left me with an awareness of how deadly cold weather can be.
Operation Brim Frost 1989 I was assigned to the second Brigade of the sixth Infantry Division. The second BDE area of operations was Northern Alaska. I was part of Division/BDE staff. Over 26,000 troops were scheduled to participate. It was going to be the largest exercise in Alaska ever.
Our trip before the fun was an experience in itself. Myself and five others were to depart Fort Richardson, outside of balmy Anchorage. We stood outside a motor pool where a bus with a large trailer was waiting. Soon several vans arrived and out jumped many troops. I was 23 at the time and their youth struck me. (Some of us are born crusty). They formed up and their CO and 1SG gave them the standard rah-rah talk. The CO announced that her and the 1SG would see them up north while they were going to take a plane.
The -50 weather, internal bus C02 and the deadly ice fog all became survival factors. This was the bus ride from hell.
The bus heater was overwhelmed after the first 50 miles. The guys from my unit were dressed in full arctic garb including “bunny boots.” The other unit had black combat boots and field jackets. More on this later.
The CO2 and the overworked heater caused ice to build up on the windows. There was one small spot where you could see out on the driver’s side and only because the assistant driver constantly scraped the window.
Ice fog is a condition occurring in -40 weather when moisture is suspended in the air causing dense fog. Ice fog was thick, causing our speed to be lowered considerably. We narrowly missed hitting several vehicles that were involved in an accident. The swerve was violent enough to throw us about while stopping to help.
After several hours down the road the other poorly dressed unit began to suffer greatly. We had them lie across the seats from each other and place their bare feet on each other bellies. We had small thermometers on our zippers that bottomed out at -30. Many of them cried in agony as frost nip started in on the extremities.
Normally under good conditions it takes 6 hours to drive between Anchorage and Fairbanks. This ride was over 14 hours in a bus with no bathroom and temperatures of -30 below (at least).
We filed a complaint against the other units leadership but never heard anything back.
This was just the beginning of my Brim Frost journey. More next week.
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