|Story & Photo by Tom Michele, Eagle Systems and
Col. Michael Todd, commander of the 181st Infantry
Brigade at Fort McCoy, said his brigade is focused on training Soldiers
for deployment in support of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring
Freedom as the winter season approaches.
Staff Sgt. Bill Schierloh, left,
an installation training coordinator with the 181st Infantry
Brigade, gives an after-action review to Soldiers from the
1037th Engineer Company. The trio are, from left, Spc. William
Watt, Sgt. Andrew Bippus and Sgt. Tyler Keller. They were on a
“squad-react-to-contact” live-fire exercise designed to teach
quick short-range marksmanship for dismounted Soldiers. The
1037th is training to deploy in support of Operation Enduring
“We are very busy providing ready and trained forces,” Todd said.
“Our mission is not diminishing, but rather it has a similar load, even
an increase, from past years and certainly at this time of year.”
The 181st is tasked with providing the mobilization training at McCoy.
Todd also emphasized the changes going on with the 181st.
“We are in a transition of training more Soldiers for missions in Iraq
to missions in Afghanistan. We are still doing the specialization
training for engineers.”
A very high percentage of mobilizing Soldiers at McCoy are engineers.
There also are regular iterations of finance units, plus groups of Air
Force, Navy and some Coast Guard personnel.
“With the transition from sending Soldiers to Iraq to now sending
Soldiers to Afghanistan, our emphasis and focus is adjusting to what the
threat is in Afghanistan,” Todd said. “That Afghan threat is more
violent. So, our 181st Soldiers in the Opposing Forces Company will
replicate the level of violence and complexity of attack on McCoy’s
“Also,” Todd said, “with the transition to Afghanistan, we have the
winter weather conditions Soldiers will encounter in-theater. McCoy’s
winter weather conditions match those in Afghanistan, much more so than
“We will be marrying the combat effects skills of route-clearance units
with the construction effects of engineer units that will be providing
protection for Soldiers from the environment,” Todd said.
“We train combat effects battalions and construction effects battalions
— all are engineers,” he said.
“We are identifying hazards to Soldiers training in cold-weather
environments. We are mitigating those hazards by putting heating
capabilities in training areas,” said Todd. This will include having
heaters in vehicles and the Southwest Asia-type huts that have been
constructed in many of McCoy’s training areas.
Soldiers, trainees and trainers, will be wearing more loose layers of
clothing to prevent hypothermia.
“Winter weather in Wisconsin changes instantly, so Soldiers will be
instructed to bring all of their cold-weather gear immediately when
reporting for duty each day,” Todd said. “The weather likely will
change, and Soldiers will need to be prepared immediately. Soldiers,
both trainers and trainees, are being issued extreme cold-weather gear
to protect them against the cold.”
There is a lot of close cooperation between the 181st and the Fort McCoy
garrison to accomplish the mobilization mission. “We work very closely
with Garrison Commander Col. David Chesser and Deputy for Mobilization
Col. Bas Oskam. It is a good partnership with a great synergy. There
also are our partners from other installations, and other states,
particularly Wisconsin, Iowa and Minnesota Guard,” Todd said.
The 181st is comprised of about 75 active component, 160 National Guard
and 310 Army Reserve Soldiers on active duty. There are another 170
Soldiers in a Troop Program Unit status.
“Many are serving one- and two-year terms of service, and many have
recent combat experience,” Todd said.
In briefly glancing back at the big picture, and noting that most if not
all mobilizing Soldiers coming through Fort McCoy are National Guard and
Reserve, Todd said, “Our Citizen Soldiers are contributing greatly in
achieving our country’s objectives.”