The temperature is –7 °C (19 °F). Approximately 200 Marines from the U.S. Marine Corps are standing in line, waiting for the British instructors to push them into the freezing water. This is the first time a Marine infantry battalion has conducted cold weather training in Norway, and some of the Marines have never even seen snow before. Now they will learn how to get out of the water after breaking through the ice.
While some of the Marines are sceptical, others are looking forward to the ice breaking drill.
"I expect it to be cold, but we are well-trained. I also feel I can trust the instructors," says Lance Corporal Andrew Tatro right before hitting the icy water.
Watch the video at the top to see how Tatro tackled the cold water.
The purpose of the training in Northern Norway is to learn how to operate safely and effectively in cold weather. They are also preparing for the Norwegian exercise Cold Response next month.
"We are here to learn cold weather training, and how to survive in this rough environment. This icebreaking drill is an absolute critical lifesaving skill that we need to know," says Lieutenant Colonel Justin J. Ansel, Commanding Officer for the American Black Sea Rotational Force.
More cold weather
After the winter training in Finnmark, the battalion will travel to Central Norway to participate in Cold Response. There they will be attached to the Norwegian Army's Brigade Nord.
"My expectations are that we continue to learn and work with our fantastic allied partners, to see how they operate, and for them to understand how we operate and ideally learn from each other," says Ansel.
The U.S. Marines are using the Allied Training facilities at the Garrison of Porsanger while conducting their winter training.
"The training facilities here are absolute world-class, from the barracks where we are living, to the chow hall where we eat, to this beautiful landscape," he ads.
|2016-02-11 Dag1_Porsanger2||2016-02-11 Dag1_Porsanger2||http://forsvaret.no/media/PubImages/2016-02-11 Dag1_Porsanger2.JPG||http://forsvaret.no/media/PubImages/Forms/DispForm.aspx?ID=5431||Eit iskaldt møte med vatnet. Foto: Anna Elisabeth Martinsen||An icy encounter with the water. Photo by Anna Elisabeth Martinsen|
|2016-02-11 Dag1_Porsanger24||2016-02-11 Dag1_Porsanger24||http://forsvaret.no/media/PubImages/2016-02-11 Dag1_Porsanger24.JPG||http://forsvaret.no/media/PubImages/Forms/DispForm.aspx?ID=5432||Frå isbadingsøvinga i Porsanger. Foto: Anna Elisabeth Martinsen||From the ice breaking drill in Finnmark, Norway. Photo by Anna Elisabeth Martinsen|
|A US Marine in freezing water during an ice breaking drill/En amerikansk marineinfanterist i iskaldt vann under en isbadingdrill||A US Marine in freezing water during an ice breaking drill/En amerikansk marineinfanterist i iskaldt vann under en isbadingdrill||http://forsvaret.no/media/PubImages/2016-02-11 USMC and Royal Marines winter training at Porsanger_131.jpg||http://forsvaret.no/media/PubImages/Forms/DispForm.aspx?ID=5433||Ein amerikanar i det iskalde vatnet under isbadingsdrillen i Porsanger. Foto: Ina Nyås Moe||A U.S. Marine in the freezing water during an ice breaking drill in Finnmark, Norway. Photo by Ina Nyås Moe|
|En amerikansk marineinfanterist er på vei ut o det iskallde vannet under en isbadingdrill/A US Marine is on his way into the freezing water during an ice breaking drill/E||En amerikansk marineinfanterist er på vei ut o det iskallde vannet under en isbadingdrill/A US Marine is on his way into the freezing water during an ice breaking drill/E||http://forsvaret.no/media/PubImages/2016-02-11 USMC and Royal Marines winter training at Porsanger_171.jpg||http://forsvaret.no/media/PubImages/Forms/DispForm.aspx?ID=5434||Ein amerikansk soldat er på veg ut i det iskalde vatnet under en isbadingsdrill i Porsanger. Foto: Ina Nyås Moe||A U.S. Marine on his way into the freezing water during an ice breaking drill in Finnmark, Norway. Photo by Ina Nyås Moe|
Mountain Leader instructors from the United Kingdom Royal Marines Commandos are responsible for training the Americans in Northern Norway. The British will teach the U.S. Marines how to ski, how to use snowshoes and how to build a snow cave. An avalanche course is also a part of the training program.
"Our main objective for the Marines is to initially teach them how to survive in this climate. Then we move onto teaching them how move across snow-covered and frozen terrain and finally teach them tactics on how to fight," says Warrant Officer Liam Dowthwaite, chief instructor Cold Weather Training Group.
The British Mountain Leader’s started conducting cold weather operations in 1942. More recently, the Royal Marines have been working in Norway consecutively since 1969, with the Mountain Leaders spending the last eight years based in Porsangmoen.
Warrant Officer Dowthwaite says the British Marines have a close bond to the Allied Training Centre, and that the Norwegian personnel there have taught them how to ski.
"Norway is the closest place to train in cold weather," he adds.
Dowthwaite also points out that Norway has snowy conditions and often 15 degrees, and is therefore ideal for winter training. The cold knowledge will also be useful outside Norway. Approximately 70 per cent of the world's surface is subject to some form of cold weather fluctuation.
"We are talking about temperatures from plus three degrees Celsius, down to really extreme sub-zero conditions. The skills we learn here, can be used elsewhere," says the chief instructor.