By Tom Michele, The Real McCoy Contributor
Gaining access to an assembly area, where Soldiers congregate
to prepare to do battle, to eat and sleep, to store weapons, to
communicate, to recover from injuries, to report to headquarters, to
return to after battle, hasn't changed much in thousands of years.
Personnel from the 341st Engineer
Company of Barling, Ark., stand guard duty at the entry control
point of Contingency Operating Location Freedom at Fort McCoy.
(Photo by Tom Michele)
But the entry control point (ECP) still is a very important
item on the mobilization training schedule for Soldiers preparing for
deployment to a combat theater of operations.
"The entry control point is exactly what it says it
is," Staff Sgt. Steve Bliss said. "You control everything
that comes in and everything that goes out, whether it is
just a hastily constructed assembly area or something that has
been there for years."
"But entry control points are in a particular location and
operated there because they save lives," Bliss said. "That
is the importance."
Bliss is an observer-controller-trainer with the 1st, 338th
Training Support Battalion, 181st Infantry Brigade. The brigade, with
its other three training support battalions, conducts the mobilization
training at Fort McCoy.
"Some Soldiers haven't been in a combat environment,"
Bliss said. "So, when they leave after the mob training at Fort
McCoy to deploy overseas, they will have a general understanding of
how an entry control point works, what to expect and what to do when
they are assigned to any of these tasks."
"We teach a general guideline," Bliss said. "We
train Soldiers to Army standards. But those standards may be different
from country to country. So, as the standards and training changes,
the Army's training and standards change. It occurs all the
What doesn't change is still one or more Soldiers positioned at
a location where pedestrian and vehicle traffic must pass through a
gate system to gain entry to a specific area.
Those Soldiers still must keep their eyes and ears very wide
open, observant to any change in or on the landscape, particularly if
that change may be or is a threat to the assembly area and the people
and material in that area.
Soldiers are taught what to look for and how to look for it,
and then how to react to any of dozens and dozens of situations,
including threats and violence.
Soldiers inspect people and vehicles for any sort of explosives
and weapons hidden in the vehicle or hidden on a person's body.
"The entry control point is the first line of defense
between the people of the surrounding areas and our operating
area," Bliss said.
Bliss also noted the time it may take for an inspection,
vehicle or personnel, "has no time limit. It takes as long as it
takes, whatever number of minutes, even if the person or the vehicle
have been in the assembly area a thousand times before. They get
thoroughly inspected every time."
ECP training is given to Soldiers of every rank because every
Soldier could be assigned to ECP duty, including officers, Bliss said.
It is very common to see a colonel standing next to a private during
instruction and exercise time.
The trainers use Opposing Forces (OPFOR) personnel to inject
realistic action. One scenario, for example, involves the OPFOR people
uncovering a weapon hidden in or under their clothing and then opening
fire on the Soldiers. Blank ammunition, simulated hand grenades,
artillery simulators and other simulated devices are available for
Another training aid used to incorporate realism into the ECP
training is the civilians on the battlefield (COBs), people dressed as
local Iraqi or Afghan villagers, wandering around the area or into the
ECP, attempting to gain entry.
Some of those COBs are "friendly," some aren't. Some
carry hidden weapons or explosives.
The training Soldiers must detect, identify, inspect, confirm,
detain and counter-act for each situation.
Bliss said this training pertains to male and female personnel
and all of the armed forces branches. It's not just the Army anymore
at an entry control point. Air Force and Navy personnel also go
through mobilization training at Fort McCoy as those personnel serve
alongside their Army brothers and sisters in many theaters of U.S.
(Michele is a public affairs specialist for
Eagle Systems and Services Inc., contractor for CONUS Support Base