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May 28, 2010

News

Night live-fire, tactical scenarios
added to mobilization training

Story & Photo by Tom Michele, Eagle Systems & Services

Night live-fire exercises, more tactical scenarios and an increased training tempo are the newest training strategies employed by the 181st Infantry Brigade. The 181st conducts the mobilization training at Fort McCoy.

PHOTO: The sky at Range 29 is illuminated by .50-caliber machine gun tracers and pyrotechnical devices during a night live-fire exercise at Fort McCoy. Photo by Tom Michele
The sky at Range 29 is illuminated by .50-caliber machine gun tracers and pyrotechnical devices during a night live-fire exercise at Fort McCoy. The 323rd Engineer Company, an Army Reserve unit from Spartanburg, S.C., participated in the training to prepare to deploy in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

“Live-fire exercises were changed to nighttime to create a more robust training scenario,” 181st Commander Col. Michael Todd said.

“This also is a systematic push by First Army to make sure we address the night live fire in accordance with the unit’s mission in-theater,” Todd said. “Training will be tailored to what the unit’s mission level of engagement will be in-theater. We will fit the package to what they expect to fight in.”

The first night live-fire exercises were in April with Wisconsin’s 724th Engineer Battalion as it prepared for deployment to support Operation Iraqi Freedom, Todd said.

This new training includes four- to eight-vehicle convoys driving onto Range 29, stopping and having some of the Soldiers dismount and take positions either along the roadway embankment or next to the vehicles.

The dismounted Soldiers, as well as those with machine guns in vehicle turrets, then engage pop-up targets at distances of 100 meters to 2,500 meters.

The Soldiers use night-vision goggles, and the targets are pop-ups of individual-threat silhouettes as well as small-vehicle silhouettes pulled along a hidden track.

“We are expanding this capability because we will have dismounted elements maneuvering as part of the exercise, moving into positions of advantage instead of the present static, set security positions,” Todd said.

PHOTO: Soldiers from the 323rd Engineer Company load ammunition at the ammunition supply point on Range 29 to prepare for a night live-fire exercise. Photo by Tom Michele
Soldiers from the 323rd Engineer Company load ammunition at the ammunition supply point on Range 29 to prepare for a night live-fire exercise.

As for the increased tempo of training, Todd said, “We will be rolling units right into a tactical mode as soon as they exit the cantonment fence boundary and also do it much earlier in the mobilization training period.”

“We are making the units perform tactical tasks earlier in the mobilization instead of waiting to get tactical when the MRE (Mission Readiness Exercise) starts,” he said.

The MRE has been the culmination of mob training, a five-to-eight-day exercise near the end of their approximately 45- to 60-day training period at McCoy.

The expanded training will employ all of the training from the time of the unit’s arrival at McCoy.

“Soldiers and units will master the basics earlier in the training cycle so they will commence the MRE at a higher level of proficiency,” Todd said.

It will be important for 181st trainers conducting leadership evaluations to look for unit discipline and to see how quickly units identify and correct mistakes, Todd said. “We are expanding and challenging their tactical mindset. It also makes much better use of the time they have available at Fort McCoy. It makes sure they are at a higher level of proficiency.”

“A lot of Army training is a ‘crawl, walk, run’ process,” Todd said. “We have still been ‘walking’ when we start the MRE. We need to be at a fast jog going into the MRE, and sprinting by the end of it.”

“An increased ‘ramping up’ of training will be better for the Soldiers and the units so they will spend more time developing a better battle rhythm,” Todd said.

“The night live fire and the increased tempo is all part of the team effort to provide the best training possible for the Soldiers and their units,” Todd said.

“Many of the Soldiers doing mobilization training at Fort McCoy are on their second, third and sometimes fourth deployment, so much of the training is not new for them. However, units generally have team members who have not worked extensively together, and tactics probably have changed since their last deployment. Units see they have a stake in this. I’m capitalizing on this, and, so far, it is working out very well.”

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