Army Mountain Warfare School to Open New Vt. Training Facility

The center will welcome its first students in specialized military skills this summer

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The military on Friday celebrated the new home of the nation's preeminent center for specialized training in mountain warfare — located in Jericho, Vermont.

The new state-of-the-art center is expected to address training shortfalls the U.S. Army was facing due to space constraints in a previous facility, site leaders said.

While it is still under construction, the general-purpose instruction building is on-track to accept its first students in the Summer of 2022, according to the Army Mountain Warfare School.

Nestled near rugged terrain, the Army Mountain Warfare School — the nation's one and only — is operated by the Vermont Army National Guard.

Servicemembers come to Jericho from all over to prepare to deploy to areas with rapidly-changing weather, where they could face challenges like altitude sickness. They also learn specialized skills from mountain climbing and rappelling, to tricky medical evacuations, high-angle shooting, and more.

"When you train together, you'll train as you fight," observed Maj. Gen. Greg Knight, the commander of the Vermont National Guard. "And that's an important takeaway for us here. It's hard, it's realistic, but it has lasting impact on those relationships and prepares them for the unexpected."

A ribbon-cutting Friday celebrated a more than 82,000-square-foot center for the school, where 174 personnel can stay, eat, and learn. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, championed roughly $30 million in federal funds for the new building, according to his office.

"There's a difference between doing it in a classroom or a gym or being out where it's 10 below zero and you're going up the side of a mountain," Leahy said of military training in mountain warfare skills. "This is going to be a world-class training facility."

The commander of the Army Mountain Warfare School, Lt. Col. Steve Gagner, said the new facility is a big-time upgrade over a cramped and dated property that fell short of fulfilling the nation’s preparedness needs.

"We could never meet the capacity that the Army was asking us to train," Gagner acknowledged, referring to a previous headquarters for the school which he described as older, smaller, and out-of-date. "So with this facility, we can certainly make a dent on that [training goal], if not meet the demand."

With Friday's ribbon-cutting falling on Earth Day, several guests in attendance took note of its green construction and design features.

According to architect Marty Sienkiewycz of SAS Architects in Burlington, the Army Mountain Warfare School's new center includes a geothermal system for heating and cooling — to cut the use of fossil fuels. It will also boast high-efficiency lighting, electric vehicle charging stations, and space for the installation of panels to turn energy from the sun into electricity, Sienkiewycz told NECN and NBC10 Boston.

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