|Story & photos by Tom Michele, Eagle Systems &
Convoys with five to eight tactical vehicles maneuvered along routes
throughout Fort McCoy as part of mobilization training for the 1st
Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division. The 1st, 34th is a
Minnesota Army National Guard unit.
A Caiman-led convoy pulls up to a
Contingency Operating Location Liberty entry control point
moments before departing on a convoy mission throughout Fort
McCoy. The convoy was run by Soldiers from the 1st Battalion,
194th Armor, 1st Brigade Combat Team of the 34th Infantry
The training went well for the 34th’s approximately 2,300 Soldiers,
according to Maj. Stephen Heinz, operations officer with the 340th
Training Support Battalion, 181st Infantry Brigade, the mobilization
trainers at Fort McCoy.
“The 34th’s training was a lot of lanes training,” Heinz said. “The
convoys trained to react to improvised explosive devices, small-arms
fire from insurgents (performed by opposing forces soldiers), RKG-3
attacks (a hand-thrown grenade-like projectile still being utilized in
theater), explosively formed projectiles, and interaction with
“Training has gone very well,” Heinz said. “There have been a few
hiccups here and there, but no real issues. They conduct their
after-action reviews following each section of training and, if
necessary, redo that portion of the exercise. That’s what the 34th’s
commander wanted, what First Army wanted, all to meet First Army
standards, and the 181st helped the 34th accomplish the commander’s
The 34th is deploying in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, but is
going to Kuwait to support the drawdown of personnel, equipment and
supplies from Iraq to Kuwait.
A Humvee guntruck rounds a curve,
followed by several other tactical vehicles, during convoy
operations on a Fort McCoy road. The convoy was run by Soldiers
from the 1st Battalion, 194th Armor, 1st Brigade Combat Team of
the 34th Infantry Division.
“Much of the 34th’s work will be moving equipment from Iraq to Kuwait as
the U.S. reduces its footprint in Iraq,” Heinz said.
The 34th’s commander’s focus also included gunnery training with
live-fire exercises, Heinz said.
“We trained 34th Soldiers to deploy, and, on top of that, conducted it
along with the other training occurring at Fort McCoy. It was a joint
effort with the Fort McCoy Garrison and the 181st Brigade. Everyone very
effectively utilized the training assets at Fort McCoy.”
Command Sgt. Maj. John Lepowsky, command sergeant major with the 194th
Armor, one of the several battalions comprising the 34th, expressed his
satisfaction with the training his Soldiers received at Fort McCoy.
“We received outstanding training at Fort McCoy,” Lepowsky said. “The
181st Brigade’s observer-controller-trainers did an outstanding job of
mentoring us, and providing valuable feedback.”
“Fort McCoy provided realistic scenarios and provided our Soldiers with
tasks that enabled us to develop the skills necessary to do our mission
overseas. It helped give us a chance to refine our Standing Operating
Procedures to be able to react quickly to any scenario threat forces may
Lepowsky said the persistent rain throughout June “made training a
little more difficult, but, by conducting risk management, we continued
to train, and had very few issues. The rain slowed the pace down a
little, but our crews gelled and became more proficient, and that’s a
key to training.”
“All of the 34th’s battalions worked well together and shared lessons
learned, so we all benefitted from the experience,” Lepowsky said.
Lepowsky complimented Fort McCoy for the good living conditions and for
the Caiman mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicle training on the
drivers’ course and the Caiman rollover training provided at the
Wisconsin Military Academy. “Vehicle safety is our number one priority.
Overall, the training and experience we received at McCoy made us more
proficient and that will pay dividends when we get overseas.”