Photo Gallery | Terry Parker alum climbs Mount McKinley
The Northern Warfare training Center, the Army’s premiere cold weather and mountaineering school has taught thousands of Soldiers how to, as its motto states, “battle cold and conquer mountains.”
The Alaska-based school has also taught a select amount of instructors to teach and lead those Soldiers throughout the years.
One of those Instructors, Steven Decker, joined the team in 2002 as an infantryman, and after retiring in 2005 with 20 years of military service, retained his position at the school as a civilian training specialist.
Decker, a Jacksonville, Fla., native, said he was first on assignment to Alaska in 1992, but was diverted and reassigned as an Army drill sergeant.
Finally, in 1998 after completing his drill duty, he said he was given his choice of duty assignment, chose Alaska and got the job at the NWTC by either fate or sheer luck.
“A guy fell off Moose Creek Bluff and broke his ankle,” Decker said. “And I got the job!”
Two of Decker’s passions; the great outdoors and training Soldiers, are now combined in a job that has kept him Alaska for more than 10 years so far.
“I like skiing, climbing and anything outdoors,” Decker said. “And I get to still go out and train Soldiers, something I have always enjoyed.”
Decker said he had a background in cold weather training and mountain climbing, climbing in such places as Colorado and Germany before coming to Alaska. Since he has been here, he has summited or made attempts on mountains like Rainbow Mountain, Institute, White Princess, Silvertip and McKinley.
Decker and five other instructors are currently attempting a summit of Mount McKinley, the tallest peak in North America, with an altitude of 20,000 feet above sea level. Decker is the only one in the team who has ever attempted and completed this climb before.
He said the team has been training since December starting with the Cold Weather Leaders Course they teach at the school, and several climbs, some not as successful as they had hoped.
“We attempted White Princess, but it had bad avalanche conditions,” Decker said, “and tried Silvertip, but there was a big nasty crevasse that we couldn’t get around.”
These setbacks did not stop the training.
We were able to get on top of rainbow in March and skiing cross country every day [to prepare for the McKinley summit],” Decker said.
Decker said he first summited the McKinley with friends from the Alaska Alpine Club.
“A bunch of us said ‘let’s do this’,” Decker said. “So we did.”
Since he had the knowledge and experience, Decker said the command at the NWTC thought he should be on the team and he accepted the challenge.
“We are just going to take it nice and slow,” Decker said.