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400+ Allied, Joint Special Operations Forces Secure the Arctic

by Lt.j.g. Martin Carey, Naval Special Warfare Group TWO
12 March 2024 Recognizing the importance of the Arctic region to defense of the homeland from potential adversarial threats, elite special operations forces from the U.S. Navy, U.S. Army, U.S. Air Force, Canada, Denmark, Norway, and the United Kingdom recently concluded high-impact training events throughout the pan-Arctic region, stretching from Alaska, in the Arctic Circle, across Canada and into Greenland. Arctic Edge 24, a U.S. Northern Command exercise, brought together more than 400 special operations forces (SOF) to integrate, share lessons and refine their tactical effectiveness in diving operations, fast-roping from helicopters, snow mobile transits, long-range movements across the Arctic Circle, and a marquee event involving a fast-attack Submarine. These past few weeks of training epitomize an unwavering commitment to fortifying U.S. and Allied national security against potential aggression, echoing directives outlined in the National Defense Strategy and the National Strategy for the Arctic Region documents.

“Naval Special Warfare’s unique ability to conduct complex operations in the water column, and in maritime domains such as the Arctic, discourages aggression from potential adversaries,” said Capt. Bill Gallagher, Naval Special Warfare Group TWO Commodore. “Given the frequency with which we are training alongside our Allied partners and demonstrating our combined expertise in some of the most severe environments on the planet, we are sending a clear message about our warfighting ability and our preparedness to defend the homeland across the Arctic region.”

These ideals were on display during the culminating event that took the SOF commando’s training beyond the northern most point of the United States, past Uqtiagvik Alaska, deep into the Arctic Circle. Flying inside special operations MH-47G Chinook helicopters, approximately 15 SOF personnel pioneered a historic event when they hovered a few feet from the surface, off-loaded a small team to conduct an ice-depth survey and cleared a helicopter landing zone. Once cleared, the Chinooks touched down and snow mobiles exited the aircraft to retrieve an aerial package dropped nearby. The package was then driven across Arctic terrain and handed-off to personnel from the submarine USS Hampton (SSN 767). Just moments before, the Los Angeles-class fast attack submarine had surfaced through the thick sheet of ice, emerging from the sea below. This marked the first-ever integration of SOF personnel, SOF aircraft, and snow mobiles coming together to conduct an operation with a submarine that surfaced that deep in the Arctic Circle.

In recent remarks delivered at the Maritime Institute of Technology and Graduate Studies, Adm. Daryl Caudle talked about his responsibility for defending the homeland and his theory of success in the Arctic which involves maintaining an enhanced presence, strengthening cooperative partnerships and building a more capable Arctic maritime force. Caudle commands U.S. Fleet Forces and is the Navy’s Component Commander for both US Northern Command and US Strategic Command, where he oversees all maritime homeland defense including much of the Arctic. He went on to discuss some of his priorities which focus on an increased presence, campaigning through Joint training and exercises, and a close collaboration with Allies.

Artic Edge 24 reinforced this vision, bringing together Joint, Allied, conventional forces and interagency partners in the Arctic region. Arctic Edge 24 stands as a decisive demonstration of warfighting readiness, providing a platform for testing and refining capabilities in the extreme-harsh weather environment in the Arctic. The collaboration between U.S. East Coast-based Naval Special Warfare Operators (SEALs), U.S. Army Green Berets from 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne), 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, Danish Special Operations Forces, Norwegian Naval Special Operations Commandos (MJK) and United Kingdom Special Forces refined the collective capabilities of these Arctic nations to operate effectively across a range of training iterations to ensure a safe and secure pan-Arctic.

In Kodiak Alaska, SEALs, Green Berets and MJK forces conducted multiple diving operations in water temperatures of 37 degrees Fahrenheit. Deploying from beach heads and small rubber boats, the team practiced pier-side vessel ship attacks, utilizing combat swimmer infiltration method with underwater navigation to target a training ship at the pier. The group also partnered with the U.S. Coast Guard where they refined techniques of fast-roping from an MH-60T Jayhawk helicopter under rainy conditions.

Further North in Utqiagvik, Alaska, the SEALs and MJK Commandos embraced the challenges associated with temperatures of -40 degrees Fahrenheit as they prepared for the culminating event with the US Submarine Force. Leading up to that event, they conducted snow mobile familiarization training, practiced clearing ice to create a helicopter landing zone and trained on cold weather survival drills, ensuring a successful SUB/SOF integration.

Additional training occurred throughout Alaska in Anchorage, Fairbanks and Kotzebue, and Greenland, with personnel from interagency partners at the FBI and U.S. Marshals Service, United States Marine Corps, Alaska National Guard, New York Air National Guard, 19th Special Forces Group (Airborne) among others.

Safeguarding Arctic security is not merely a national endeavor but a collective responsibility. The total force contributions during Artic Edge 24 supports the strategic significance of this area and improved the Allied-Arctic-nation’s presence and operational effectiveness in the pan-Arctic region. The scenarios, simulated missions and sharing of best practices contributed to advancing the collective warfighting readiness, homeland defense and operational acumen of these elite forces in this extreme environment.

Naval Special Warfare Group TWO produces, supports, and deploys the world’s premier maritime special operations forces to conduct full-spectrum operations and integrated deterrence in support of U.S. national objectives. For more information, visit