NEW ORLEANS –
From a hot and humid military base lined with Southern live oaks on the outskirts of New Orleans, Army Reserve logisticians of the 377th Theater Sustainment Command (TSC) oversee a bevy of sustainment missions, both domestic and international. In its most recent test, the command was called for the first time in its history to support U.S. Army North operations in the oppressively frigid temperatures of an Alaskan winter as part of the biennial joint exercise Arctic Edge 22.
“Oh, it was cold,” laughed Col. Charles ‘Chuck’ Moulton, the 377th’s logistics planning leader for the event. Moulton recently assumed the helm as the G-3, or operations, lead for the command and reflected on the team’s unprecedented transition from subtropical to subzero. “It affected every aspect of our operations and was a big challenge for us, but we were able to get the job done. It was a great learning experience and I think we proved that we can succeed in any conditions.”
Operation Arctic Edge is an international air defense exercise with participants from the U.S. and Canadian military, U.S. Coast Guardsmen, and government employees from the U.S Department of Defense and Canada’s Department of National Defence. With roots as far back as Operation Jack Frost in the 1970s and Operation Brim Frost in the 1980s, the event serves as a continuous proving ground for Arctic air defense and missile operations for American and Canadian forces.
Approximately 1,000 individuals participated in the exercise which occurred Feb. 28 to March 17, 2022, and was conducted over 60,000 square miles of Alaskan airspace in what is known as the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex. For the assigned Soldiers of the 377th TSC, the work began before the first air defenders set foot on ground.
“We were on ground in early February setting the conditions for the exercise,” explained Lt. Col. Aimee Torres, the G-3/7 Training Readiness Exercise Division lead for the 377th TSC. “We arranged for equipment and personnel transport into theater, along with setting up a lot of behind-the-scenes aspects like lodging and meals for the troops who participated.”
For Arctic Edge, this equipment movement included specialized weapons systems like the short-range Avenger air defense system and the long-range Patriot surface-to-air missile system. The 377th TSC pushed the equipment into theater through temperatures that routinely dropped below negative 20 degrees.
In its role as the lead logistics supporting element for the exercise, the 377th TSC is also responsible for movement of equipment and personnel back to home station at the conclusion of the event. The logisticians will remain on ground for a week after the exercise concludes to arrange for the operation’s closure.
With an increased emphasis on regional stability and the reinforcement of strategic security interests within the Arctic, the exercise is projected to reengage again in 2024. Considering the operational lessons gleaned from the exercise, Maj. Matt Fassett, an operations planner within the 377th TSC, stressed the importance of adaptation.
“A lot of us came here with expectations that this would be like what we’ve all done before in the Middle East,” he reflected. “It’s similar, but it’s different enough that you’ll be in trouble if you rely solely on that experience. It’s taking our shared experience and applying it to a similar problem. Some of it overlaps, some of it doesn’t.”
Those differences ranged from equipment transport issues in extreme low temperatures to even the potential for frostbite for Soldiers involved if they were exposed to spilled water or oil. Looking out over the vast expanse of snow and permafrost surrounding him, Fassett summed up the challenging transition with a reference to Dorothy’s bewilderment in L. Frank Baum’s classic novel ‘The Wizard of Oz.’
“We’re not in Kuwait anymore, Toto.”