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Southern Tier

Soldiers compete in Winter Skills Challenge

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Soldiers compete in Winter Skills Challenge
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You think of the Middle East and you think of soldiers working in the heat and desert. But often soldiers can be dropped in the mountains of Afghanistan with extreme cold and snow. Thursday those soldiers got a chance to work in those elements and gave our Brian Dwyer an inside look.

FORT DRUM, N.Y. -- "Well today, we're having a competition that involves shooting, snow shoeing, cross country skiing and then a sled pull event," Major Bernard Van Brocklin said. "Then we have an extra event in the woods that the competitors don't know about. That consists of a litter carry and a fire starting competition."

"The Division was formed in World War II to wage alpine warfare against the Axis powers. So these are some of the things they had to do back then," Maj. Van Brocklin said.

"In the snow shoe course, they'll start out a timed portion of the event, they'll go point six miles out to the sled pull. They go about point five miles pulling a 100 pound sled. They comeback and they'll complete point six miles of a snow shoe course," Maj. Van Brocklin added.

"Running in snow shoes is kind of tough," Capt. Jesse Johnson said. "My shins are killing me right now. I won't lie. But it's good training. It gets you used to it. It gets you to realize what it's going to be like."

"They get back from there and they'll change into skis and then they'll do two laps, 2.7 mile laps in cross country skis," Major Van Brocklin continued.

"The hills," Private First Class Sabrina Duenas responded when asked about her biggest challenge. "We didn't practice on any hills at all. Going up the couple hills we had was difficult. Also coming down them. I don't know how to stop."

The action went indoors for shooting.

"The shooting," Capt. Johnson said. "We always have to be good marksmen in everything we do. So we try to incorporate that into all training."

From there back outside.

"When they comeback, we'll take them off into the woods and they'll do a litter carry for a 10 minute time standard," Major Van Brocklin said. “They have a litter where they carry casualties on. One of the teammates will lay on the litter and the other two will carry them approximately 100 meters to a point where they'll have to start a fire."

Of course being out in the elements, winter, warmth and fire can be very important. So these soldiers have five minutes to build one.

"If you were in a situation where you couldn't keep warm and you couldn't start your own fire, you wouldn't survive," Maj. Van Brocklin said.

"It's a good time," Capt. Johnson said about the day. "It's fun to get into the woods and in touch with nature and get in the cold."

It wasn't all about competition. Several teams knew they wouldn't be fastest, but just wanted to see if they could finish. ClientIP:, UserAgent: CCBot/2.0 ( Profile: TWCSAMLSP