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 November 12, 2010

News

Mobilizing unit conducts border-crossing training at Fort McCoy

Story & photos by Tom Michele, Eagle Systems & Services

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.

PHOTO: Humvees and tractor-trailers of the 197th Fires Brigade pull up to Fort McCoy’s Contingency Operating Location Freedom gates, ready for crossing/convoy missions. Photo by Tom Michele
Humvees and tractor-trailers of the 197th Fires Brigade pull up to Fort McCoy’s Contingency Operating Location Freedom gates, ready for crossing/convoy missions.

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 Fort McCoy.

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 West Virginia.

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.

PHOTO: K Crossing, the newest training scenario at Fort McCoy, got heavy use during the 197th Fires Brigades’ seven-day culminating training event. Photo by Tom Michele
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 New Dawn.

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 checked individuals.

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 our ability.”

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 convoy vehicles.

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.

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