|Story & photos by Tom Michele, Eagle Systems &
The 509th Engineer Company, an active-duty unit from Fort
Leonard Wood, Mo., came to Fort McCoy for its five-day Culminating
Training Exercise before deploying in support of Operation Enduring
A route-clearance convoy manned
by 509th Engineer Company Soldiers comes down a heavily-wooded
hill and into a village on a Fort McCoy training lane as part of
the unit’s five-day Culminating Training Exercise.
Only two other active-duty units, both medical organizations,
conducted mobilization training at Fort McCoy, both in the 2005 time
period and for the CTE only, 181st Infantry Brigade Operations
Supervisor Walter Rakow said. Rakow has been in that capacity since the
start of mobilization training at Fort McCoy in 2002.
Capt. Derek Austin, the 509th’s commander, said Fort McCoy has the
assets to support the 509th’s combat engineer-route-clearance mission.
“Fort McCoy has the Huskies, Buffaloes, MRAPs, simulated training
villages, cultural role players and space to conduct that training that
Leonard Wood doesn’t. Leonard Wood has some of it, but it is only for
individual Soldier training, not the collective unit training we
“We contacted Fort McCoy to see if we could come to McCoy for the
training and they said, ‘yes,’” Austin said. “We got a lot of help from
the McCoy installation. We saw the process at Fort McCoy to mobilize
National Guard and Army Reserve units, so we thought McCoy would also do
it for an active-duty unit.”
Lt. Col. Hank Thomsen, commander of the 5th Engineer Battalion at
Fort Leonard Wood, the higher headquarters for the 509th, also praised
McCoy. “We were short of the needs for collective engineer training at
Fort Leonard Wood, and we learned about the architecture for that
training at Fort McCoy and McCoy’s good reputation for training engineer
Soldiers from the 509th Engineer
Company take one of their team members from a Mine- Resistant
Ambush-Protected vehicle and place him on a litter on a Fort
McCoy training road. The team member received simulated injuries
during an assault on their convoy.
Thomsen and 5th Engineer Brigade Commander Col. Frank Rangel Jr.
visited Fort McCoy for two days to observe the 509th’s training.
“We will be back to use the great opportunities for battalion-level
engineer training at Fort McCoy, to train to deploy and to redeploy,”
Austin said their training at McCoy went very well. “McCoy offered
realistic training, training for the Soldiers to execute the mission
they will have in-theater. We are pleased with everything at McCoy.”
“We succeeded in receiving the training for what we will see in
Afghanistan,” Austin said. “We are very pleased with the way operations
went, orders, and requirements, everything to replicate what’s happening
in-theater. I definitely recommend our coming back to McCoy for future
rotations, because of what McCoy offers us. That includes the Soldier
Readiness Center (SRC) for processing, and the adjacent medical,
audiology and vision clinics. The SRC is basically a one-stop shop. The
McCoy staff worked hard for us.” The 509th accomplished several Soldier
Readiness Process tasks at the SRC and medical facilities.
“There weren’t any distractions for our training,” Austin said.
Pfc. Olisha Valme said, “McCoy has good training routes and lanes,
especially for a route-clearance unit like ours. It gave us a good
aspect of what we do. They are also different than what we had at Fort
Chaffee, Ark., with its heavy vegetation. McCoy was a help for us.”
Sgt. Dave Tracy, kneeling, and
Pfc. Floyd Graham, rear, of the 509th Engineer Company pull
security duty in a tree line on a Fort McCoy training lane.
Tracy and Graham were providing security as other Soldiers from
the 509th established a medical evacuation helicopter landing
zone to evacuate a team member with simulated injuries from an
assault on their convoy.
Sgt. Russell Chambliss said the observer-controller-trainers (OCTs)
at Fort McCoy were very knowledgeable. “They got us the most-current
information about changes in-theater. The training here was particularly
good for our younger and newer Soldiers, so all of us are ready to
deploy to Afghanistan. We are ready to go.”
Staff Sgt. Kenneth Goethe said the fast-paced, realistic and intense
training allowed the unit to do more things. “Our junior Soldiers got a
lot more done than we expected. The McCoy staff and simulations worked
like those at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif., and
Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, La., but put together, a
step above Irwin and Polk.”
Sgt. 1st Class Jaime Castro said coming to McCoy was beneficial to the
cause of the unit’s mission. “This is an outstanding place to be. It
provides a lot of active and reserve units the nice facilities and nice
people to support us so we can do an outstanding job.”
An observer-controller-trainer with the 181st Infantry Brigade, Sgt. 1st
Class Raoul Rodriguez, said the 509th came to Fort McCoy to get
good-quality training. “They were very motivated, willing to learn and
adapt, and they showed a lot of hustle,” he said. “They did very well.”
The 181st conducts CTEs by issuing orders to the unit to go on many
specific missions, then lets the units determine the best tactics,
techniques and procedures to best tackle the mission, Rodriguez said.
The 181st provides the OCTs, opposing forces threats and safety
“The 509th had the advantage, as an active-duty unit, to have its
Soldiers work together regularly as a unit, compared to the National
Guard and Reserve Soldiers coming together from civilian situations and
sometimes, or for the first time, going through some of the mobilization
training,” Rodriguez said.