Surviving in the snow

Surviving in the snow

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It is ten degrees Celsius below freezing; metres of snow have fallen. Close to the ground, the mountain infantry troops in their white camouflage gear are barely distinguishable from their surroundings. During Exercise Cold Response 20, they train for combat and for survival in the cold. With shovels and saws, they clear paths through the snow, dig pits for shelters and fighting positions, and camouflage their equipment.

A soldier in a snow suit sets up his tent at night. His headlamp bathes the scene in red light.

The mountain infantry must be able to build shelters even at night.

Bundeswehr/Maximilian Schulz

The area of the fighting positions from which soldiers use their weapons to engage the enemy is located away from the assembly area, which is at a remove from the fight. This is where the soldiers spend a certain amount of time, heating their meals, warming themselves at a fire source or resting in their winter sleeping bags.

Building a shelter in the snow

Although there are no doors in a soldier’s personal sleeping area, a crooked passageway provides wind protection and a sense of privacy. Wind must always be taken into account when setting up a place to sleep. Wind chill can cause the body temperature to drop precipitously. Small storage niches have been dug into the walls of the snow pit to allow the soldiers to keep their weapons and other equipment close at hand. The tent is set up in the centre of the pit. If there is enough time to improve the shelters, a tarp can be stretched over the top to protect against snow or wind.

Parking in the camouflage garage

A soldier in snow camouflage stands next to a vehicle in the snow. A white tarp is stretched overhead.

To camouflage the vehicles, they are parked in a type of carport made of fabric.

Bundeswehr/Maximilian Schulz

The section has parked its vehicle, a Hägglunds S oversnow vehicle and trailer painted in a snow camouflage pattern, under a white camouflage net cover. The cover looks like a tall carport made from white, perforated fabric stretched over a few steel poles. The construction is expedient – otherwise, the soldiers would have to pull the camouflage net off whenever they needed to move the vehicle and put it back later. This way, the vehicle can be moved quickly if the need arises.

Sheltered terrain model

Under a tent roof, an improvised terrain model has been constructed using branches, twigs and symbol cards.

In the largest space, the section has built a terrain model to plan tactics.

Bundeswehr/Maximilian Schulz

The terrain model, which in this case could also be called a snow box, is located in the largest shelter. It is a miniature of the surrounding terrain. The soldiers can use it to game out their tactical approach. That is why this area is also where the orders are issued. It is covered with a tarpaulin to prevent snow from covering the terrain model. Additionally, this is where equipment preparation and maintenance before and after action can be carried out.

by Peter Müller