|Story & Photo by Tom Michele, Eagle Systems &
National Guard and Army Reserve Soldiers are deploying to
a war zone in a week or two, but they still must take a final exam.
The eight-day mission rehearsal exercise (MRE) is one of the last tasks
a mobilized unit must accomplish before being validated for deployment
in support of Operations Iraqi Freedom (OIF) or Enduring Freedom (OEF).
Six Soldiers carry away insurgent
weapons found in a rural village during a mission rehearsal
exercise on a Fort McCoy training lane. From left are Sgt. Paul
Pinkoski, Pfc. Jon Peterson, Pvt. Jake Wagner, Sgt. Michael
Ogren, Spc. Lyle Nygren and Pvt. Nathan Burton. They are with
the 950th Engineer Company of Superior, Wis., which trained at
the installation to deploy in support of Operation Iraqi
Validation is certification by the 181st Infantry Brigade that the
unit has successfully completed its mobilization training tasks.
The MRE is important to the mobilizing Soldier because, as Capt. Calvin
Allen said, “The MRE helps mobilized units fine-tune their deployed
mission essential task list (DMETL) and also their Standing Operating
Procedures (SOP) to the specific area of operations they will be going
Allen is the Operations Officer for the 3rd, 340th Training Support
Battalion. The 3rd, 340th is responsible for conducting all MREs and is
one of the four battalions that make up the 181st Infantry Brigade.
In addition to accessing a unit’s DMETL and SOP the MRE also assesses
platoon and company collective tasks down to the individual Soldier
During an MRE, training engagements are built around enemy tactics,
techniques and procedures (TTPs) from a specific region (OEF/OIF).
The training units are exposed to the training engagements to see how
they react. Observer controller trainers (OCTs) then conduct after
action reviews (AARs) to address the positive and negative aspects of
what the Soldiers did or failed to do.
The majority of units now mobilizing at Fort McCoy are combat engineers,
and most of those units are configuring into route-clearance battalions.
Route-clearance units have the daunting tasks of hunting for Improvised
Explosive Devises (IEDs) along main and alternative supply routes. Route
clearance units primary equipment are the Buffalo, Husky and Talon
The Buffalo, a mine-resistant, armor-protected (MRAP) vehicle with
fork-like prongs attached to a 24-foot mechanical arm, probes and
identifies IEDs, usually buried in or along a road.
The Husky detects IEDs, and the Talon is a small robot with cameras and
a prong-clamp on a mechanical arm that can interrogate suspicious
objects with the operators staying in the safety of an MRAP.
Route-clearance patrols are conducted day and night, almost every day of
“During the MRE we mimic the conditions the unit will face in OIF or
OEF,” Allen said.
He also noted that the OCTs at Fort McCoy are regularly augmented with
SMEs (subject matter experts) who are Soldiers from the unit currently
in-theater that the training unit will replace. SMEs assist OCTs with
training the unit.
The SMEs explain the specific threats they encountered in-theater to the
Soldiers and explain how best to react to different types of threats.
“The SMEs are a great value,” Allen said. “They drive home the point
about what happened to them and what they did about it. This has been
very beneficial for the Soldiers mobilizing.”