|Story & Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Vaughn R. Larson,
Wisconsin Army National Guard
In field artillery parlance, massing
fires means that multiple cannons aim at the same target for maximum
In much the same way, officials with the Wisconsin National Guard’s
Regional Training Institute (RTI) at Fort McCoy hope that closer
coordination with the U.S. Field Artillery School at Fort Sill — the
Fires Center of Excellence (FCOE) — will result in can’t-miss training
for both Guard and active-Army Soldiers.
Col. Kenneth Koon (right) of the
Wisconsin Army National Guard briefs senior artillery officers
and noncommissioned officers regarding the Wisconsin Regional
Training Institute at Fort McCoy.
To that end, Brig. Gen. Ross Ridge, commandant of the U.S. Army Field
Artillery School, visited the Wisconsin RTI Aug. 29, accompanied by
Brig. Gen. Mark Anderson, Wisconsin’s assistant adjutant general for
Army as well as the deputy commanding general, Army National Guard, for
“It was a home run,” said Col. Kenneth Koon, commander of the 426th
Regiment which operates the RTI, and also the 16th commandant of the
Wisconsin Military Academy which houses the RTI. “It was exactly what we
wanted to achieve. To have the chief of the field artillery school come
to our schoolhouse was a significant event.”
This marked the first time an active component school commandant had
visited any National Guard RTI, Anderson said. The Wisconsin RTI is
designated as the field artillery subject matter expert for the National
Guard — Koon referred to the school as the “Fort Sill of the National
Shortly after arriving at the RTI, Ridge began discussing how the
active-duty and National Guard schoolhouses could work together, and
spoke of breaking down barriers between the two components.
“We may be better served by a closer relationship,” Ridge said. “You
should be able to leverage the same things we’re developing, so the same
thing we have in the classroom at Fort Sill is available here.”
Anderson said that hardware and software improvements could provide
quick results to the RTI in the short term. Improved connectivity, for
example, would allow for distance-learning opportunities so that
portions of various courses may be attended by students at multiple
Ridge described a university concept in which the field artillery school
at Fort Sill was the main campus, and schools such as the Wisconsin RTI
served as extension campuses.
Koon suggested to Ridge that active-duty Soldiers may choose to attend
classes here due to the compressed schedule. National Guard schoolhouses
typically feature longer class days and continue classes over weekends
to meet the required instruction time in the fewest days, Koon said.
A recent change in funding procedures will make it easier for RTIs to be
reimbursed for training active-Army Soldiers.
Koon outlined the various training provided at the Wisconsin RTI.
In addition to field artillery training, the RTI conducts schools for
officer and warrant officer candidates, combat lifesaver training, and
boasts a unique simulation center offering training for weapons,
vehicles and convoys., he said.
The schoolhouse also can send teams of instructors to remote sites, and
recently dispatched a team to Kosovo to teach infantry certification to
83 students there. The Wisconsin RTI has been named a Center of
Excellence, and the school’s basic non-commissioned officer course also
received a Center of Excellence rating.
Koon said the Wisconsin RTI was not typical, but not unique.
“It’s that flavor that’s missed by the active component — all the things
we do,” he said.
The potential for sharing resources and expertise seemed to appeal to
“Instead of me setting up something at Fort Sill, how can I leverage the
RTIs to set up these courses?” he asked. “We have an opportunity with
the transformation of the Fires Center of Excellence — we need to find a
way to exploit this.”
Anderson agreed. He said one of his first focuses as deputy assistant
commandant will be to visit with other regional training institutes “so
we’re not double-tapping,” or duplicating efforts.
Koon saw many positives from the visit.
“The field artillery is far and away on the leading edge of building the
‘university’ concept,” he said. “It’s really exciting that (Ridge) sees
us as an extension of his university.”
“I think one of the main things Brigadier General Ridge gained from the
visit was the personal perspective of the RTI’s capabilities, facilities
and professionalism of its cadre,” Anderson said. “Now he can fully
understand why Wisconsin’s RTI has that (Center of Excellence for field
artillery training) designation.”
Koon noted National Guard field artillery units have not always been
regarded on equal terms with active-Army units, despite the fact that
approximately half of the Army’s artillery is in the Guard.
“Brigadier General Ridge has indicated a desire to be more inclusive,”
Koon said. “We have an awful lot to offer.”
Ridge expressed interest in better partnering between the FCOE and the
various regional training institutes.
“Within the context of constrained resources and competing needs, it is
imperative to complement each other’s training programs,” Anderson said.
“Brigadier General Ridge’s visit gave him a first-hand viewpoint of
where we can link those capabilities.”
Koon projected the potential of such a partnership.
“I would like to see, sometime in the future, us become a real live
advanced individual training site,” he said.
Soldiers earn their military occupational specialty, or MOS, during
advanced individual training. If Koon’s wish were realized, the
Wisconsin RTI would become even more of a “Fort Sill of the National