|Story & photos by Tom Michele, Eagle Systems &
Conducting simulated international border crossings was a
highlight of the 197th Fires Brigade mobilization training at Fort McCoy
in October, and a new aspect of training at the installation.
Humvees and tractor-trailers of
the 197th Fires Brigade pull up to Fort McCoy’s Contingency
Operating Location Freedom gates, ready for crossing/convoy
Plastic cube-like barricades, blaze-orange traffic cones, guard
towers and general purpose tents were set up on a grassy parking-like
area outside of Fort McCoy’s cantonment to create the “K” Crossing area.
“K Crossing replicates the border crossing between Iraq and Kuwait,”
Capt. Justin Dwyer said. Dwyer is the 338th Training Support Battalion
assistant operations officer. The 338th is one of the four battalions
with the 181st Infantry Brigade that conducts mobilization training at
The training was part of the 197th’s culmination training event (CTE).
About 2,400 Soldiers from the New Hampshire Army National
Guard-headquartered element trained nearly two months in preparation for
deployment in support of Operation New Dawn. The 197th included the
119th Field Artillery and 182nd Field Artillery from Michigan, the 103rd
Field Artillery from Rhode Island and the 201st Field Artillery from
The entire contingent transitioned from High Mobility Artillery Rocket
System duties and learned to provide base camp management and convoy
escort and security in Iraq and Kuwait for an 11-month tour of duty.
The CTE, also called a mission readiness exercise (MRE), had convoys of
Humvee guntrucks with machine guns in the turrets, flat-bed tractor
trailers, and more Humvees.
K Crossing, the newest training
scenario at Fort McCoy, got heavy use during the 197th Fires
Brigades’ seven-day culminating training event. The 197th,
headquartered in New Hampshire, deployed to support Operation
The convoys negotiated K Crossing every hour of the day for the
seven-day CTE period. Kuwait was on the west side, Iraq on the east.
Soldiers manning the K Crossing border inspected vehicles and also
The McCoy version involved only U.S. Soldiers. “At the actual border
crossings in-theater, U.S. Soldiers primarily assist Kuwait police,”
Dwyer said. “Civilian vehicles also make up a significant part of the
border traffic. Kuwait police normally do the actual inspections. U.S.
Soldiers serve as mutual force protection and security.”
Some of the route scenarios included opposing forces (OPFOR) Soldiers
firing at the convoys with Soldiers returning fire, all participants
using blank ammunition.
“Firefights or interacting with friendly civilians, those are real
situations in-theater,” Dwyer said, “so we replicate that to the best of
Some convoys traveled from Contingency Operating Location (COL) Freedom
to COL Liberty, simulating short-haul convoys between base camps
in-country. Long-haul convoys departed a COL and took the longest
possible road route at McCoy.
“There wasn’t a single main route on Fort McCoy that wasn’t traveled by
the 197th convoys,” Dwyer said. “There are long routes in Iraq and
Kuwait, so there are long routes at McCoy.”
Different this time in the on-post routes, which had cultural role
players (CRPs) walking alongside and greeting the convoys, was that some
of the CRPs were not particularly friendly, and threw rocks at the
Some convoys traveled significantly farther, driving off-post and
through the communities of Cashton, Ontario, Wilton, Elroy, New Lisbon
and Necedah, equating to long-haul convoys in Iraq and Kuwait. No CRP or
OPFOR activity occurred off-post.
Another element of training was the command post exercise (CPX) and
command element of the CTE. The command element was conducted in some of
the larger assembly administration buildings at McCoy.
“One of the focuses of the command element training was to train the
197th brigade and battalion command staffs about the processes and
standing operating procedures they will be performing on their tour of
duty,” Lt. Col. Brian McGehee said.
McGehee is the project officer of the 3rd Battalion, 75th Battle Command
Training Group, from Fort Sheridan, Ill., that had about 100 personnel
come to McCoy to assist the 181st Infantry Brigade with the command post
portion of the mobilization training. The 181st conducts the
mobilization training at Fort McCoy. The higher command element nature
of the 197th required assistance from the 75th.
McGehee said the 75th’s focus included “assisting the 197th’s command
staff with their military decision-making process” during the seven-day
period of the combined CPX and CTE.