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Special Forces Berlin
by James Stejskal







Winter Warfare Training

Home > Training > Special Forces Winter Warfare Training

Special Forces units have historically trained for cold weather, mountain, and winter warfare operations. While all groups train for this specialized evironment the Special Forces group most experienced with winter warfare is the 10th Special Forces Group.

1st SFG Winter Warfare Training in India
1st Special Forces Group soldiers conducting mountain training India (2014)

10th Special Forces Group.  10th Group has always taken a deep interest in training during the winter and in mountainous areas.  This is due to its geographical orientation to the European environment.  During the Cold War the 10th Special Forces Group was tasked with conducting Unconventional Warfare (UW) and other missions on the European continent. These UW missions would likely take place in remote, austere and mountainous locations.  Movement would sometimes be restricted by the terrain and harsh winter conditions.  Not only were the Soldiers of 10th Special Forces Group expected to survive harsh winter conditions but they would need to be able to move over the terrain and conduct operations. 1.

The locations of the 10th Special Forces Group afforded proximity to areas that have winter environments and mountainous areas.  During the Cold War 1st Bn 10th Special Forces Group was located at Bad Tolz, Germany (see picture of Flint Kaserne and here) where many 10th Special Forces Soldiers enjoyed great skiing conditions and mountain climbing areas.  In the United States the remainder of 10th Special Forces Group was stationed at Fort Devens, Massachusetts not far from the White Mountains of New Hampshire and the Army Mountain Warfare School at  Camp Ethan Allen Training Site (CEATS) located in Vermont.  The 10th Special Forces Group later was relocated to Fort Carson, Colorado and currently conducts winter warfare training at locations in Colorado and other parts of western United States.

1st SFG Winter Warfare Training in Alaska
Green Berets with 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) practice self-recovery from a glacial crevasse during Valor United 20, an arctic warfare training exercise in Seward, Alaska. During the September 2020 exercise, Special Forces and conventional soldiers alike developed their patrolling and survival skills in some of the most unforgiving terrain in the U.S. Key focus areas for the training were arctic, alpine and glacier movement, crevasse rescue, and long-range high-frequency communications. In addition to training, the 1st SFG (A) team assisted 212th Rescue Squadron with wilderness search and rescue operations. (U.S. Army Courtesy Photo)

Winter Warfare Locations.  Other locations for winter warfare training include Fort Drum, New York, Camp Ripley, Minnesota, Alaska, and Camp McCoy, Wisconsin. A favorite training location for some 10th Special Forces teams based in Europe is the Norwegian Armed Forces School of Winter Warfare.

Specialty Training.  Being able to operate in a winter environment requires training in several skills sets. One is being able to survive the cold weather.  Another is being able to conduct movement whether by snowshoe, skiis, or snowmobile. In mountainous areas an SF detachment may need mountaineering skills. In the past twelve years (and  more) Special Forces detachments have operated in extreme winter environments during the Afghan War.

Cold Weather and Winter Operations Training.  The Northern Warfare Training Center at Fort Wainwright, Alaska offers several courses in cold weather and winter operations.  Many Special Forces groups send their Soldiers to this school for specialty training.

Ski Equipment.  In the 1950s until the early 1970s the Special Forces teams used a variety of ski equipment; however many learned to ski on wooden skiis nicknamed "White Stars".  The bindings were made of leather and Soldiers would wear the "Mickey Mouse" winter boots, Chippewa ski boots, or regular Army boots with rubber galoshes.  In the 70s the groups started purchasing civilian skis for crosscountry movement.

Ski Clothing.  It took a while for the Army to catch up with the advances that the civilian sector had made in outdoor clothing and equipment.  Illustrative of this is the Army clothing worn by an SF Soldier in the late 70s while downhill skiing at a ski resort in New England.

 Special Forces Skier 

Publications and References about Cold Weather
and Winter Warfare Training and Operations

Basic Cold Weather Manual, FM 31-70, 12 April 1968.

Cold Region Operations, ATTP 3-97.11/MCRP 3-35.1D (FM 31-70 and FM 31-71), January 2011.

Fighting the Russians in Winter: Three Case Studies, Leavenworth Paper No. 5, Dr. Allen F. Chew, Command and General Staff College, December 1981.  (accessed here on cgsc.edu on 13 Nov 11).

Handbook on Winter Warfare, No. 2300/42, German Army High Command, 5 August 1942. (Adobe Acrobat file accessed here on cgsc.edu website on 13 Nov 11).

Risk Management Guide for Cold Weather Operations, USARAK Pamplet 385-4, 30 September 2009.

Winter Training, Journal of Special Operations Medicine, Volume 2, Edition 1, Winter 2002.  (Adobe Acrobat file accessed here on socom.mil on 13 Nov 11).

Other Web Sites with Info on Winter Warfare

The Battle of the Winter War.  Soviet Union invasion of Finland 1939-1940.

Videos about Winter Warfare

"Cold Weather Packing List Video", SOF News, March 26, 2018. A U.S. Marine shows us what he carries in his backpack to survive in harsh winter environments.

"Arctic Warfare: Combat in Deep Snow and Extreme Cold". US Army Training Film, Part 1 of 2, 1950.

"Arctic Warfare: Combat in Deep Snow and Extreme Cold". US Army Training Film, Part 2 of 2, 1950.

"Winter Camping: Sub-Arctic Winter Bivouacking". US Army Training Film, 1955.

"Cold Weather Operations". Swedish Armed Forces, 2010.

"US Army National Guard Mountain Warfare Course", Jericho, Vermont.

Generation III Extended Cold Weather Clothing System (GEN III ECWCS).
US Army PEO Soldier, 2010. Facts about 7-layer cold weather system.

"Soldiers put winter survival skills to the test". Canadian Army News, 2009.

"High Altitude Warfare School (HAWS). Indian Army.

"Winter Warfare and Survival Training". Norwegian Army.

"Norway Winter Training / Arctic Warfare" at Bardufoss, 2008.


1. Read Winter Warfare Memories by Bob Mayer, in his "Write on the River" blog, January 8, 2015. A former 10th Special Forces Group member writes up his training experience in the cold.





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