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Marines ice fish with Alaskan natives

By Cpl Marcin Platek | | April 23, 2013

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Cpl. Tyler Henscheid, a combat engineer with 4th Medical Battalion, 4th Marine Logistics Group, Marine Forces Reserve, ice fishes in the middle of Kotzebue Sound, April 17. Henscheid, a native of Westphalia, Iowa, and 11 other service members participating in Innovative Readiness Training Arctic Care 2013 spent nearly two hours trying to catch sea fish but came up empty-handed.

Cpl. Tyler Henscheid, a combat engineer with 4th Medical Battalion, 4th Marine Logistics Group, Marine Forces Reserve, ice fishes in the middle of Kotzebue Sound, April 17. Henscheid, a native of Westphalia, Iowa, and 11 other service members participating in Innovative Readiness Training Arctic Care 2013 spent nearly two hours trying to catch sea fish but came up empty-handed. (Photo by Cpl Marcin Platek)


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Cpl. Jesus Godiez of 4th Medical Battalion, 4th Marine Logistics Group, Marine Forces Reserve, helps a local child empty an ice hole he helped dig  April 17. Godiez and other service members participating in Innovative Readiness Training Arctic Care 2013 were invited to ice fish after working hours.

Cpl. Jesus Godiez of 4th Medical Battalion, 4th Marine Logistics Group, Marine Forces Reserve, helps a local child empty an ice hole he helped dig April 17. Godiez and other service members participating in Innovative Readiness Training Arctic Care 2013 were invited to ice fish after working hours. (Photo by Cpl. Marcin Platek)


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A sailor with 4th Medical Battalion, 4th Marine Logistics Group, Marine Forces Reserve holds an Inupiaq fishing rod as other service members dig a hole in the ice covering Kotzebue Sound, April 17.  Marines and sailors used these authentic Native American ice fishing rods made out of wood to catch 3 fish, April 11, but unsuccessfully did not catch anything on the following fishing trip, April 17.

A sailor with 4th Medical Battalion, 4th Marine Logistics Group, Marine Forces Reserve holds an Inupiaq fishing rod as other service members dig a hole in the ice covering Kotzebue Sound, April 17. Marines and sailors used these authentic Native American ice fishing rods made out of wood to catch 3 fish, April 11, but unsuccessfully did not catch anything on the following fishing trip, April 17. (Photo by Cpl. Marcin Platek)


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Cpl. Juarez Ordoniez, a ground communications organizational repairer with 4th Medical Battalion, 4th Marine Logistics Group, Marine Forces Reserve, sits in his snowy foxhole and ice fishes in the outskirts of Kotzebue, Alaska, April 17. Ordoniez, a native of Victorville, Calif., and a handful of other service members participating in Innovative Readiness Training Arctic Care 2013 were invited by the locals to ice fish. On his first try fishing, April 11, Ordoniez caught one sea fish, but this time he came out empty-handed.

Cpl. Juarez Ordoniez, a ground communications organizational repairer with 4th Medical Battalion, 4th Marine Logistics Group, Marine Forces Reserve, sits in his snowy foxhole and ice fishes in the outskirts of Kotzebue, Alaska, April 17. Ordoniez, a native of Victorville, Calif., and a handful of other service members participating in Innovative Readiness Training Arctic Care 2013 were invited by the locals to ice fish. On his first try fishing, April 11, Ordoniez caught one sea fish, but this time he came out empty-handed. (Photo by Cpl. Marcin Platek)


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Cpl. Gabriel Castroena, an electrician with 4th Medical Battalion, 4th Marine Logistics Group, Marine Forces Reserve, and a native of San Bernardino, Calif., helps Jung In, a local fishing enthusiast, dig a hole in ice with an auger on the outskirts of Kotzebue, Alaska, April. 17. In, who invited the Marines to ice fish, said they were really eager to help and handled the machine really well.

Cpl. Gabriel Castroena, an electrician with 4th Medical Battalion, 4th Marine Logistics Group, Marine Forces Reserve, and a native of San Bernardino, Calif., helps Jung In, a local fishing enthusiast, dig a hole in ice with an auger on the outskirts of Kotzebue, Alaska, April. 17. In, who invited the Marines to ice fish, said they were really eager to help and handled the machine really well. (Photo by Cpl. Marcin Platek)


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KOTZEBUE, Alaska --

A small group of  uniformed men made their way across what seemed to be an endless white desert, their gloves and beanies did little to break the bitter-cold wind hitting their already pink faces and blue fingers. In front of them was a massive body of frozen water; behind them, a long workday.

With careful steps, 11 Marines and sailors with 4th Medical Battalion, 4th Marine Logistics Group, Marine Forces Reserve,  made their way across five-foot thick ice to a different kind of classroom. The lesson?  Ice fishing.

Inupiaq natives offered to teach the Marines and sailors of 4th Medical Bn. how to ice fish, April 11.  After working hours, the group snowmobiled to the outskirts of Kotzebue, the town where a humanitarian program, Innovative Readiness Training Arctic Care began April 15.

 “It’s an amazing experience,” said Cpl. Jesus Godiez of 4th Medical Bn. “I have been fishing before, but ice fishing was a whole different thing.”   Godiez credits the experience with helping him learn about local customs and how the Inupiaq survive in such an extreme climate.

The Marines helped the locals drill holes in the ice using an auger. After Jung In, a local fishing enthusiast, gave the Marines a quick lesson on how to operate the machine, they jumped in and began drilling the ice in fishing “hot spots” he pointed out along the Kotzebue Sound.

“They were really eager to help out with the catch,” said In, an information technician at Maniilaq Health Center.

However, drilling holes in the ice turned out to be the easy part. The Marines and sailors found it difficult to catch anything, leaving the Sound with a measly four fish; they vowed to return another day and redeem themselves.

As more service members began arriving for the exercise, Godiez said they heard about the ice fishing voyages and wanted to take part. In and the service members arranged another trip to the Kotzebue Sound, April 17, this time with high hopes of a “perfect catch.”

The temperature was below zero degrees Fahrenheit and made fishing difficult, but it did not freeze their determination to catch more of the Sheefish unique to the waters of the Sound. Much to their chagrin, the Marines and sailors spent two hours in foxholes they dug in the snow only to come away empty-handed.  However, their disappointment didn’t last long because they had something else to look forward to: a feast made from the previous trip’s catch.

Since fish are such a large part of the Inupiaq natives’ diet, during cold winter months they prepare the fish differently. Kaylen Kim, a Maniilaq Health Center employee, treated service members to a Korean-style, Sheefish soup she prepared herself.  Supposedly Kim has a secret recipe that makes her soup the best.

“It was true,” said Godiez, a native of Fontana, Calif.  “The soup was very good.”

As Marines sat and ate around the table, Kim joked about her specialty soup, which she calls Kotzebue soup.

“You can only catch the Sheefish around here, in the Kotzebue Sound,” said Kim. “The Sound calls you to fish, “she added.

It certainly called to the Marines and sailors who supported IRT Arctic Care 2013. 

IRT Arctic Care is a multi-service humanitarian and training program that focuses on enhancing the capability of U.S. forces in peacetime support operations, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. IRT Arctic Care brings medical, dental and veterinary aid to 12 rural villages of Alaska. The exercise is primarily a Reserve effort with Marine Forces Reserve taking the lead and receiving logistical and medical support from the National Guard, Army Reserve, Navy Reserve and Air Force Reserve.

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