|Story & Photo by Tom Michele, Eagle Systems &
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.
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
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
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
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