CONFERENCE: Colonel Jo Haugom is head of the Norwegian School of Winter Warfare and NATO's Center of Excellence Cold Weather Operations. Here he is during the conference cold weather operations at Terningen Arena in Elverum. Photo: Didrik Linnerud Arnesen / The Armed Forces

Cold Weather Operations Conference 2021

American Major General came from Alaska to learn more about operations in cold weather


November 2-4, a conference on cold weather operations was arranged at Terningen Arena.

- The purpose was to actualize and put the spotlight on the relevance of cold weather operations - also in a future relevance perspective. The conference gives us the opportunity to share expertise and best practice with NATO allies and partner nations.

Says Colonel Jo Haugom. He is head of the Norwegian School of Winter Warfare and NATO's Center of Excellence Cold Weather Operations (COE-CWO), which was the host of the "Cold Weather Operations Conference 2021".

In total, more than 300 people from 20 nations participated in the event. The conference was divided into three different tracks where the main themes were; operational / strategic approach and joint operations, education and training, as well as cold weather medicine.

In addition, the Defense and Security Industry Association had an exhibition with equipment and materiel.

- The idea has to arrange a conference that NATO allies and partner nations travel to Norway to be part of - due to the academic benefits, says Haugom.


Experiencing increased interest

This is the first time the conference has been held. It happens just a few months before this year's big winter exercise Cold Response. Around 30,000 soldiers are expected to arrive in Norway at the end of March / beginning of April 2022.

- There are few nations in NATO that are well trained to operations in cold climates. Therefore, Cold Response is an important arena for training and practice. During the conference, we strengthened the network and updated Norway's expertise in winter subject matter, says Haugom.

He says that in recent years there has been an increased interest in cold weather operations among NATO countries. This is due to geopolitical factors such as developments in the High North and increased military activity in the region.

Several countries have established their own strategies for the Arctic and military capabilities to operate under these demanding conditions, he says.


Participants from the US Army Alaska

Among the participants at the conference was Major General Brian Eifler. He is the commander of the US Army Alaska and has traveled from the northernmost state of the United States to attend the conference.

- They are very interested in cooperating and looking at what experiences Norway has with operations in our areas, including when it comes to equipment. Eifler stated that much of the equipment they have today is not particularly suitable for operations under demanding winter conditions. This applies to vehicles, among other things, says Haugom.

He emphasizes that the challenges of cold weather operations also apply elsewhere than in the High North. As part of the conference, the participants heard a lecture by a lieutenant colonel from the Ukrainian special forces.


Among other things, he spoke about the effect of implementing NATO standards in logistics and medical service, joint operations and shared experiences from sharp assignments in a demanding climate.

Colonel Haugom believes the conference is an important arena for exchanging experiences.

- This is the first time the «Cold Weather Operations Conference» is organized. According to the plan, this will continue every two or three years. Based on the feedback from the participants, the conference has been a success, Haugom concludes.


Conference programme

  1. Within NATO area of responsibility, there are regions of both arctic proximity, high altitude and seasonal changes, that require forces to master certain levels of cold weather conditions in order to operate successfully. Cold weather have the potential to render a potent fighting force useless. Besides an increased risk of fatal accidents in harsh environments, cold weather conditions may influence operational effectiveness, grounding aircrafts, forcing vessels to port and immobilizing land forces. Neglecting these conditions will pose a risk both to mission and to force. A cold weather capable force operating under the same conditions will have a huge advantage.

    Hence, the theme of this year’s conference is: “NATO cold weather warfighting capability for the future”.


    The main track will have a strategic and operational level focus. It will emphasise both current approaches and future relevance of cold weather capability within the alliance.  Main audience is the strategic and operational level in NATO and equivalent national levels in NATO and PfP nations.

    Initially, the main track will set the scene by elaborating on recent years’ discussions, reports and initiatives, such as Strategic Foresight Analysis (SFA), NATO Warfighting Capstone Concept (NWCC) and Warfighting Development Agenda (WDA), and their relevance in a cold weather operations perspective. It will then shift focus to how we understand the environment and our adversaries, and how we deal with these challenges today. Finally, the main track will try to bridge the gap, by addressing possible future solutions – Joint Concept for Cold Weather Operations.


    Cold Weather capable units are trained and prepared to handle harsh environments and cold weather conditions. However, within the alliance and the alliance’s area of responsibility, there are different types of cold weather environments, and different forces handle these environments differently.

    Track 2 seeks to cover experiences and best practices from the tactical level within the alliance. This track will emphasise challenges and possibilities during planning, preparing and execution of training, exercises and operations. It will also give insight on how nations within the alliance and our partner nations approach development and maintenance of competence related to operations in cold weather environment.

    Main audience of track 2 are planners and staff officers on brigade/battalion level in addition to national warfare centres and military academy instructors. Secondary audience are specialists in support of Cold Weather Operations and subject matter experts within Cold Weather Capabilities.


    Track 3 addresses Cold Weather Injuries (CWI) in civilian life and in military service. The main topics are frostbites, non-freezing cold injuries, and hypothermia. Scientifically based knowledge on prevention, advanced diagnostic procedures, and modern treatments are presented.
    Lacking evidence-based medicine for CWI, experimental and off-label treatments have contributed to an increased interest in the medical community regarding CWI. Long-term sequelae were previously without treatment options but can now be treated. Modern diagnostic equipment and invasive medication in CWI are presented within the cold weather context.

    The cold weather interferes with winter military training and challenge any military operation in the harsh arctic climate. The Tactical Combat Casualty Care (TCCC) have been revolutionary for prehospital casualty care, but does this concept adapt to cold weather warfare? Does your tourniquet stop the bleeding through multiple layers of clothing, and how do you put it on, without getting a frostbite as well?

    Lectures on Wednesday 3 November, present state of the art management of CWI. Different aspects and concepts for clinical situations in winter warfare are presented and discussed. The lectures on Thursday 4 November, address some of the gaps when transforming TCCC into a system for cold weather operations.

    This track also addresses the medical challenges of creating cold weather warfighting capability for the future.

  5. The Conference Expo is where the industry will display their ideas, projects or physical products that meet some important challenges within cold weather operations. The industry will be present at the expo as exhibitors, selected and lead by the Norwegian Defence and Security Industry Directory (FSi). A list consisting of 20–30 international exhibitors will be announced prior to the conference.

    During the two days of the expo, the exhibitors will present their products from stands, from the expo scene or by using the big expo screens. Formal meetings between industry and military can possibly take place during the expo. This is also a great arena for SMEs to share their ideas and thoughts with the industry.

    The expo is open to all conference participants, and to participants that only have an interest in the expo and meetings with the cold weather operations industry.

    The expo is the heart of the conference, where all participants gather in breaks, during lunches and at the expo dinner.