[ The Real McCoy Online Home ]                                                                                                               September 25, 2009

181st preparing for winter
mobilization mission

By Tom Michele, Eagle Systems and Services

An increasing winter and continuing mobilization mission for Fort McCoy means the 181st Infantry Brigade, the mobilization trainers at McCoy, won’t get to work in the sunny Southern U.S. for the winter months.

Photo: Soldiers from the 181st Infantry Brigade unbolt the forward axle assembly frame of a Husky vehicle-mounted mine-detection vehicle at Fort McCoy’s Installation Materiel Maintenance Activity. The Husky was shipped from Iraq to use at the installation. (Photo by Tom Michele)
Soldiers from the 181st Infantry Brigade unbolt the forward axle assembly frame of a Husky vehicle-mounted mine-detection vehicle at Fort McCoy’s Installation Materiel Maintenance Activity. The Husky was shipped from Iraq to use at the installation. (Photo by Tom Michele)

More than 20 individual units, mostly engineers, are scheduled to go through mobilization training at Fort McCoy from November through April.

Maj. Robert Pilkin, the 181st’s chief of plans, said the 181st would not be going to Camp Shelby, Miss., as it did in the winter months of 2007-08.

“When I came to Fort McCoy in late 2003, mobilization training was slower in the summer months and then built up in winter. That reversed itself in recent years. Now, this coming year, including this winter season, we are getting more units mobilizing here in winter, and many of them will be here simultaneously. The 181st will be at Fort McCoy to train them.”

Lt. Col. James Sprackling, brigade plans, training and operations officer, said “mobilization training will shift from mostly mounted combat patrols in HMMWVs (High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles) to route clearance training with the blast-protected and heavily armored route clearance vehicles. We will really be busier in the winter months than the summer months.”

Sprackling said there is a possibility of the 181st getting some additional observer-controller-trainers (OCTs) from other First Army units to augment the existing 181st staff.

Mobilization training will change, Sprackling said. “We have been mostly getting small units (in the number of Soldiers in a unit). Now we will be getting brigade and battalion-sized elements.”

“Our niche is evolving toward training route clearance teams to deploy to Afghanistan,” Sprackling said. “Afghanistan is their mission, so it is one of our missions. Wisconsin is not Afghanistan, but northern Afghanistan does have similar weather conditions, specifically snow. So, we will train mobilizing Soldiers to operate in snow, narrow roads and mountainous terrain. The hills along the west side of the McCoy impact area fit that scenario.”

Sprackling said “the 181st will continue to train mobilizing Soldiers to the First Army’s Southwest Asia Training Guide, with the 32 individual Soldier tasks and the 11 collective unit tasks. The changes will be that we will use fewer HMMWVs and use more mine-detecting equipment. The HMMWVs travel in mounted combat patrols at fast speeds. Route clearance missions are normally much slower, to find, not avoid, improvised explosive devices.”

Vehicle traffic flow on Fort McCoy’s training lanes will change in one more and very noticeable way, Sprackling said. Mounted combat patrols with HMMWVs traveled on the right-side lane. Other traffic could slowly and safely pass them in either direction. “But route clearance missions will use the entire road and there will be no fast way to get past them. Drivers of other vehicles will need to be more careful.”

Sprackling said this shift in mobilization training began earlier this month.

Some of the newer equipment already is at Fort McCoy, having arrived in recent months, such as the Husky that was documented in a story and photo in The Real McCoy. July 10 issue.

Three more Husky vehicle-mounted mine- detection vehicles arrived at McCoy recently. The new trio is really an old trio, having been used in Iraq and then shipped to McCoy for training use.

Other new equipment for mobilization training includes virtual simulators of the Buffalo mine-protected clearance vehicle, the RG-31 medium mine-protected vehicle, the Husky vehicle-mounted mine-detection vehicle, the joint explosive ordnance disposal rapid response vehicle, the Talon man-transportable robotic system, an instructor operator station and an after-action review station.

Also for “gearing up” for the winter, the 181st individual Soldiers will be issued the extreme cold weather seven-layer clothing system, according to Mark Boggs, a civilian planner for the 181st.

To keep Soldiers comfortable in the Fort McCoy outdoor environment, Generation III clothing provides the broadest range of defense from unpredictable environmental conditions, allows Soldiers to train, operate and sustain combat operations in a broad climate range, and extends their ability to take the fight to the enemy, Boggs said.

Included in the system are a high-loft fleece jacket, wind jacket, soft-shell cold-weather jacket and trousers, extreme wet/cold-weather jacket and trousers and extreme cold-weather parka and trousers. The system addresses a climate range from minus 40 degrees to 60 degrees Fahrenheit. It also is 25 percent lighter than previous-generation clothing, with 30 percent less bulk.

According to Sprackling, 181st personnel will get their gear from Fort McCoy’s Central Issue Facility. Mobilizing Soldiers will have it as part of their standard issue equipment.


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