The United States Army on Monday activated the new 11th Airborne Division in Alaska to bring 12,000 soldiers in the state under one unit, and to train them to withstand the harsh arctic environment.
"They will be the experts for our Army, and we like to see the best in the world operating in this environment," Gen. James McConville, the Army's chief of staff, told reporters, including Military.com, at a press conference Monday.
According to the publication, the new unit includes U.S. Army Alaska, which served “a headquarters role” in the region with two brigades that were “loosely” associated with the mainly jungle fighting 25th Infantry Division.
The move comes as the military shifts from counterterrorism operations to a more conventional war footing, with the most likely spots of conflict in more frigid regions of the world, as China and Russia are laying claims to melting areas of the arctic for resources, the report said.
Commanders told the publication that soldiers engaged in warfare in harsher regions would have to carry more gear and thrive in colder conditions more than other divisions.
Officials said that the new unit will be voluntary because the conditions may not be a good fit for everyone, and recruits will have the opportunity of choosing it as a duty station when they enlist.
Although the unit is a new activation, it comes from the 11th Airborne Division that served in the Pacific in World War II, Breaking Defense reported Monday.
It's also designed to combat lower morale in that area, which has seen a rash of suicides, including 11 in 2021, due in part to the lack of soldiers feeling a sense of common identity and purpose, something the new unit plans to address, according to the report.
“Experience has told us that units that have a common unit identity is a source of pride is extremely important in the history of a unit in the patch matter because this is what they do and this is who they are,” McConville said.
The division will incorporate the 25th Infantry Division’s first Stryker brigade as the main the combat team.
“Their focus will be on dismounted and Arctic mobility and capabilities to sustain operations in the Arctic extreme cold weather,” Maj. Gen. Brian Eifler, the 11th Airborne’s commander told the publication. "We have Nepal, Mongolia, India, northern Japan, [South] Korea — we have these countries that have mountainous and extreme cold weather terrain and we're going to start working with them more.''
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