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An eye on Russia and North Korea, Marines prepare to fight in the cold

British troops train in Norway. Photo: Getty

The Marine Corps has been ramping up its preparations for potential cold-weather conflicts in places like Russia or North Korea, per Marine Corps Times. Marine Commandant Gen. Robert B. Neller said last month at CSIS: “There is a possibility we are going to be there."

Why it matters: The Marine Corps is behind our allies and enemies in preparing to fight in such conditions, per Marine Corps Times. “We haven’t been in the cold-weather business for a while,” Gen. Neller said. Many Marines are used to training for battles in desert-like terrains in the Middle East, as opposed to icy, snowy, and mountainous terrains, which require vastly different skill sets.

History: The Marine Corps hasn’t fought in icy or snowy terrain since the Korean War about 70 years ago. Before that Marines occasionally trained by the North Pole and in Iceland.

Details:

Two rotations of hundreds of Marines have been deployed in Norway for a year to practice winter training. Another rotation is expected to deploy this spring.

  • Magnus Nordenman, the director of trans-Atlantic security at the Atlantic Council, told Marine Times, “The Marine rotational presence [in Norway] is an important signal to Russia that this region is on America’s radar."

In cold weather, Marines need to wear extra layers, which can change how mobile they are and how quickly they fatigue. Marines also need to consume more food in such conditions.

  • There are more injuries in cold-weather terrain, according to the Corps’ guide on operations in mountains.
  • Equipment and weapons systems aren’t as effective in colder weather and optics also change, while radios and vehicles need extra maintenance.
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