Fort McCoy News July 26, 2013

WAREX units go back to basics of field training

STORY & PHOTOS BY STAFF SGT. WILLIAM K. GILLESPIE
319th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

FORT McCOY, Wis. — When troops began arriving July 11 to conduct the Warrior Exercise (WAREX) at Fort McCoy, the soon-to-be bustling tent city was just an empty open field.

Six days later the site, with 71 tents, five mobile-kitchen trailers, 26 portable latrines and approximately 23 units from across nine states and U.S. territories, stood proudly as Forward Operating Base (FOB) Enemy Prisoner of War site 2.

Photo 1 for WAREX article
Enemy Prisoner of War site 2 transforms from an open field into a working, sustainable forward operating base, complete with living quarters, portable field showers, mobile kitchen trailers and tactical operation centers. Warrior Exercise is a cooperative training exercise between Army, Navy and Air Force Reserves, and involved approximately 60 units from across the United States and its territories.

Creating something out of nothing isn't an easy task, but it's one the 650th Regional Support Group (RSG) of Las Vegas, gladly embraced.

"WAREX is an exercise where brigade and battalion staffs can come together to do the military decision-making process and actually get out here and do real training that you can't do back at your home station," said Lt. Col. Chandra Roberts, 650th RSG operations officer-in-charge.

"More than 14 months of planning have gone into this culmination of a nearly three-week exercise that tests the knowledge and abilities of units performing their wartime mission," Roberts explained. She estimated 650th Reserve Soldiers have planned and coordinated hundreds of hours outside their normal monthly unit training to pull off this WAREX.

"One of the biggest obstacles in getting to where we are today has been the planning and logistical issues (that arise) while trying to carry on the normal day-to-day operations," Martin said.

Something that set this particular exercise apart from previous years of WAREX was the austere environment encountered by the units upon their arrival.

Both Roberts and Sgt. Maj. Jeorge Martin, 650th RSG operations noncommissioned officer-in-charge, emphasized that units have become complacent with the operational environment of the past 12 years.

Photo 2 for WAREX article
Soldiers from 288th Quartermaster Company, Team 1, Corpus Christi, Texas, fill water bladders for use during Warrior Exercise at Fort McCoy. The water bladders are transported to forward operating bases and can be used by Soldiers as a portable water supply for anything from field showers to laundry trailers.

Soldiers expect to fall in on existing equipment and built up forward operating bases when they begin a tour of duty.

"The last 12 years we have been going back to the same places … Iraq and Afghanistan, and we've forgotten what it is to set up an austere FOB where you would have a flat, bare field that would require you to plan for latrines and mobile-kitchen trailers for meals," Roberts said.

As the Army begins to draw down and cutbacks are required, extensive field training exercises are not exempt.

"This WAREX is different from previous ones because we have had the budget cut almost in half due to the fiscal constraints of federal regulatory guidance," Roberts explained.

Without the contracting piece, units with combat support missions are able to better use their military skills in an operational environment, according to Martin.

"For the past 10-12 year cycle, the expectations were for contracted meals and tents," said Martin.

"With the reality of coming back to basics, you don't always have air conditioning, meals aren't prepared for you and eating that MRE (Meal, Ready to Eat) is as important as having breakfast because you may not always get that luxury."

Also of concern to Martin during the exercise is the concept of leadership and basic customs and courtesies.

"We want to ensure that we are saluting, providing the greeting of the day," he said. "The discipline and military bearing of our younger Soldiers is just as important as their military skill set. The sense of pride in wearing the uniform is just as tangible as the pride of a job well done."