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Cadets receive cold-weather training in Alaska

by Airman 1st Class David Carbajal
3rd Wing Public Affairs

3/11/2008 - ELMENDORF AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska (AFPN) -- Cadets from both Eagle River and West High School Junior ROTC programs participated in an overnight stay at Otter Lake on Fort Richardson, Alaska, to gain cold weather survival training Feb. 29 to March 1.

Arriving early Feb. 29, the cadets began marching the eight-mile trail to the lake, carrying survival gear, such as a sleeping bag, extra gloves and socks.

A little more than half way through the trail, the cadets paused to hold a fire-building class taught by Staff Sgt. Marc Richard, a Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape Specialist with Det. 1 of the 353rd Combat Training Squadron.

After being briefed on the procedures to build a fire, the cadets were told to make their own blaze from only the elements found in the wilderness. A successful fire earned the cadets their lunch, a meal-ready-to-eat, or MRE. When the cadets finished their meal, they continued to the campsite.

Upon arriving at the campsite, Sergeant Richard demonstrated snow shelter construction and signaling, in the event that a rescue should be made.

"Out of all the information the cadets learned, the snow shelter construction was most important, in that, they spent the night there," said retired Chief Master Sgt. Bill McNew, the Air Force Junior ROTC Aerospace Science Instructor for Eagle River. "With sub zero temperatures, their shelter played a big part in the cadets not becoming injured."

Prior to the overnight stay, the cadets from each school invited Sergeant Richard to come to the school and teach all of the elements of winter survival.

"To survive severe winter conditions, nearly everything comes into play," the SERE member said. "Understanding the layering method, the difference in natural and synthetic material, the importance of staying hydrated, how to prevent cold weather injuries such as hypothermia and frostbite, fire building techniques, snow shelter construction, and rescue signaling, just to name a few topics that were touched on."

This event was the second year the cadets from both schools came together to experience the winter survival training.

"For the past two years, we have accomplished a 'joint' camp out with Eagle River cadets," said retired Maj. Ed Dove, the Senior Aerospace Science Instructor for West HS. "Everyone seems to really enjoy the togetherness."

Several JROTC students will be heading to Gunsight Mountain in late July to receive the summer equivalent of survival and leadership training.

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