Cold Weather Operations

**This is a primer for a series covering some concepts involved in cold weather operations.**

Working in a cold weather environment will have a significant effect on operations, affecting everything from training, TTP’s, equipment, planning and logistics. We can find several examples throughout history where people failed to take this into account and suffered accordingly.

It requires strict adherence to SOP’s as well as good leadership in order to maintain the combat readiness of the force. The devil is in the details, and in a cold weather setting there are no short cuts – the cold is unforgiving and will kill you if you are not prepared and take it lightly.

With that being said, it is fully possible to successfully conduct extended operations in cold weather, as long as you have the right training, and use that knowledge successfully.

In the Norwegian military we say that conducting operations in winter is 20% gear, 80% knowledge and routines. Our goal with our training is not merely to survive in the cold, but to thrive, and to make the snow and winter conditions our ally.

Some of the determining traits needed to successfully work in a cold environment is willpower and discipline. You cannot allow yourself or your unit to be lax with your routines in the field. One of the main reasons why people suffer in the cold stems from apprehension of actually being cold. They are dreading the concept of being cold and being out in the cold for a long time, and they start making bad decisions. They don’t do the right thing at the right time and will quickly become a liability.

You need to accept the fact that you will be cold, and you will at times be uncomfortable. However, you can affect your situation by taking action; you can adjust clothing, you can stay physically active, you can build a shelter to get out of the weather etc. Don’t just resign yourself to being miserable.

The most demanding cold weather environment is around freezing temps, O*C/32*F plus/minus a few degrees, because you will often find the environment to be cold and wet, which is a dangerous combination as clothing and equipment will tend to stay damp or wet. These are ideal circumstances for non-freezing frost injuries, such as trench foot.

Prolonged exposure to a cold environment will take its toll on the body, so you need to stay on top of nutrition and hydration, as well as personal hygiene. Try to get proper rest as the situation allows.

Things take more time during winter, and this needs to be considered during planning – give units time for the operations to succeed, and time to take the necessary steps required for this environment, ensuring that both personnel and equipment are ready.

Leaders need to always stay on top of the situation, establish standards and routines and make sure that they are met at all levels.

We say that if you can conduct operations in a cold weather winter environment, you can handle all environments.


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