Fort McCoy News April 11, 2014

Range Management ready for accelerating pace

STORY & PHOTOS BY SCOTT T. STURKOL
Public Affairs Staff

The more than 46,000 acres of Fort McCoy range and training land must be ready for use as the 2014 operations tempo moves to high gear. The team at the Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security (DPTMS) Range Management Branch (RMB) is meeting that challenge.

Photo for Range Management article
Range Officer Mike Todd and Range Scheduling Supervisor Mark Stelzner, both from the Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security Range Management Branch, discuss operations.

Under the RMB umbrella is a necessary mix of people who manage range usage, which, in 2013, included the training of more than 125,000 service members along with support of eight major reserve-component exercises.

The RMB includes Range Operations and its Scheduling, Safety and the Fire Desk sections. It also includes Range Maintenance, Integrated Area Training Management (ITAM) and a contracted workforce for the forward operating bases, the Combined Arms Collective Training Facility and shoot houses, as well as collective training and combat in the cities facilities. ITAM includes Land Rehabilitation and Maintenance (LRAM), Range and Training Land Assessment (RTLA) and Geographic Information Systems (GIS).

"Overall, between government civilian employees and contracted workforce, there are more than 60 people who are a part of everything we do," said Range Officer Mike Todd. "But truthfully, for range operations to be successful, it takes an overall garrison effort by everybody at Fort McCoy."

Fort McCoy's ranges can support a variety of training options from small-arms training with pistols, rifles or machine guns to tanks, helicopters and large-vehicle convoys.

The thousands of Soldiers at Fort McCoy training for exercises like Warrior Exercise (WAREX), which is underway, may use one of the several forward operating or tactical training bases set up as part of the overall range complex, a small-arms range to qualify on weapons systems, or the Combined Arms Collective Training Facility to practice urban-tactics scenarios.

"Our ranges hold so many possibilities for training," Todd said.

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Tim Caucutt, Fire Desk supervisor, works in the radio room.

One big reason Fort McCoy's ranges continuously are ready for use is the emphasis on maintenance. Todd said the Range Maintenance section keeps all the targeting systems up to date and others keep buildings ready. Range maintenance consists of four maintenance teams and an engineering team. ITAM, LRAM and RTLA staffs help maintain the range lands.

Range Maintenance Section Supervisor Barry Schroader described the work his section contributes to the mission every day.

"We have people in range support who keep everything operational and take care of the Soldiers as they train on the ranges," Schroader said. "We also have engineering people who are there to complete projects.

"Mostly, Range Maintenance has people who are dedicated, hard workers who are willing to go above and beyond to support our training mission," Schroader continued. "When the service members need us, we're there to help every time."

ITAM Coordinater Brent Friedl discussed care of the range lands. He noted how a tree-service company recently was contracted to remove underbrush, dead trees and other debris at one of the installation's "fire-and-maneuver" ranges.

"That was near one of our urban operations training areas," Friedl said. "The removal of dead and downed trees as well as shrubs allows for better maneuvering around the ranges and makes the areas safer. A lot of work is done early in the year before the training season expands."

Friedl said range maintenance work is conducted with other post agencies to include the Directorate of Public Works and their Natural Resources Branch, as well as others. "It really is a postwide team approach in everything we do," he said.

Before any ranges are used, units schedule planned training through the Range Facility Management Support System (RFMSS), said Range Scheduling Supervisor Mark Stelzner. Once they access the system, they submit a Fort McCoy Form 38, Support Request.

"Essentially, we work directly with unit coordinators as they build their range training plans," Stelzner said. "Then, we work with them to determine range availability and the best ranges they can use to complete their training."

Once training is scheduled, Range Safety Officer Brad Vieth ensures the area is safe for use per direction of U.S. Army and Fort McCoy range publications and guidance.

"We want to make sure the area they are using, for example, is free of unexploded ordnance or other safety hazards," Vieth said.
If the training on the range involves live firing, then further safety precautions have to be followed in more detail, and surface danger zones — particularly in nearby ranges — are coordinated.

"Before a unit even begins their training, we have already established regular or special guidance based on their training needs," Vieth said. "We will work with all units to help them meet their training objectives."

Once a unit has ranges scheduled, had its training plan approved and begins training with that plan, Fire Desk Supervisor Tim Caucutt and his team ensure the unit follows the established plan and assists the unit as needed.

"My section makes sure the ranges are cleared and are being operated properly and safely," Caucutt said. "All of the planning is done ahead of time. My section makes sure the plan is being carried out, the unit's needs are being met, and we handle any last-minute changes."

At the height of training season, Todd said there could be as many as 6,500 or more service members training on a weekend at Fort McCoy.

He said adaptability and flexibility are traits for his team's success, but added one other thing that the ever-flowing processes at the ranges successful.

"Good communication is the real key to our success," Todd said. "Our whole team has a great ability to communicate back and forth on everything we have going on, no matter how busy it gets. That's a testament to the great people we have working here."

Prior to the events of Sept. 11, 2001, and before operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, the type of training completed on Fort McCoy ranges was much different than what happens today.

"After 9-11 everything changed," Stelzner said. "Within a short time we had regular mobilization training taking place. We got busier, but we adapted to meet the needs of our customers."

Todd added the training they support now can be more detailed than ever before.

"With mobilization training, the types of training completed were similar for each unit that came through," Todd said. "Now, with the mobilization mission winding down and a veteran force with lots of deployment experience, we are seeing different types of training objectives that are needed.

"However, even with changing times, we are meeting the needs of our customers," Todd said.

As 2014 continues and another probable 100,000-plus service members train on Fort McCoy ranges, Todd said they'll be ready. "We're always ready for the challenge," Todd said.

"With a great team and great support from everyone on Fort McCoy, this should be another great year of training."

For more information about the RMB, call 608-388-4629.