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NEWS | Feb. 21, 2023

11th Airborne Division Hosts Annual Arctic Angels Winter Games

By Sgt. Keon Horton

On Feb. 2, 2023, 31 two-person teams from across the 11th Airborne Division competed in the annual Arctic Angels Winter Games, near Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska. The games, designed as a test of Arctic skills, saw Soldiers snowshoe, downhill and cross-country ski approximately eight miles of mountainous terrain, covering 2000 feet in elevation.

The competition began long before sunrise with a snowshoe trek through the Chugach Mountains near JBER, followed by a downhill ski through Arctic Valley Ski Area. Once through the ski area, how they tackled the rocks, trees and deep snow of the rest of the course was up to them. 

“It takes some grit to do this stuff,” said Maj. Gen. Brian Eifler, 11th Airborne Division Commanding General. “So, we have to test ourselves often by doing things like this”

By the end, only seventeen teams managed to finish the course in the allotted time, and the winners were announced during a ceremony later that night at the post theater. Sgt. Ryan Applehof and Sgt. Joshua Martinez, both of Baker Company, 3rd Battalion, 509th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), finished the course in just over five hours, more than 40 minutes faster than the second place team.   

Both Applehof and Martinez thanked their battalion operations sergeant major, Sgt. Maj., Joshua Lothspeich, for being a great person, leader and mentor. 
“He’s always pushing every one of us to use their time in Alaska well,” said Martinez.

In addition to navigating the terrain in skis and snowshoes, Soldiers competing carried a rucksack as well as an M4 rifle. 

“I think it shows we’re capable of being, and thriving, in an Arctic environment,” said Martinez. 

Their first-place finish shows that, while the environment can be intimidating, training and living here makes it possible to win here. 

“Focus on getting outside and experience Alaska in a way that’s not wearing camo,” said Applehof. “It’s how you’re going to be able to develop your skills in this environment.”