Fort McCoy News September 26, 2014

Troops value Fort McCoy training opportunities

STORY & PHOTOS BY SCOTT T. STURKOL
Public Affairs Staff

Tens of thousands of service members from across the U.S. have trained at Fort McCoy in 2014.

Photo 1 for training article
Soldiers from the 477th Medical Company (Ground Ambulance), an Army Reserve unit from Duluth, Minn., complete M-16 marksmanship training Sept. 12 at Range 31 on Fort McCoy's North Post.

The Fort McCoy complex is situated on 60,000 acres, 46,000 of which are available for maneuver and training. The installation has 30 live-fire ranges, 17 of which are automated or instrumented; 21 artillery firing points, 12 mortar firing points and an 8,000-acre impact area.

Capt. Greg Quinn, company commander for the 477th Medical Company (Ground Ambulance) of Duluth, Minn., came to Fort McCoy with fellow Soldiers to complete weapons qualifications and a field training exercise Sept. 12-14. He said the installation offers everything they need to assess and evaluate the unit's readiness.

"We came here with more than 22 vehicles on a six-hour convoy from Duluth," Quinn said.

"While that convoy helps us assess our equipment and preparation, coming to Fort McCoy provides us with more opportunities. Here, we have the space we need to do training like weapons qualifying and rapidly move to another lane for medical evacuation training. It's a great place to train."

Quinn's Army Reserve unit is unique, he said, because they have many medics assigned who, in turn, support many other Army units as part of medical teams both in the U.S. and overseas. Fort McCoy's training environment is ideal to assess our capability to conduct our assigned mission.

Photo 2 for training article
Soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 168th Infantry Regiment coordinate the launch of 8-millimeter mortars during a live-fire operation at Mortar Firing Point 312 on Fort McCoy's North Post in August.

"We also came here and conducted our annual training in June," Quinn said. "Fort McCoy has all the lanes and ranges available that effectively help us task and assess our medics as needed."

Fort McCoy also is a favorite for infantry Soldiers, according to 1st Lt. Michael Halbor of the 1st Battalion, 168th (1st, 168th) Infantry Regiment from Council Bluffs, Iowa. Halbor, the battalion's mortar platoon leader, trained at Fort McCoy in August during the Exportable Combat Training Capability (XCTC) Exercise.

A company of 1st, 168th Soldiers used Mortar Firing Point 312 for several days during XCTC on Fort McCoy's North Post, which borders the impact area. There, the Soldiers fired 120-, 81- and 60-millimeter mortar rounds supporting exercise scenarios. Halbor said it was an ideal place to train.

"We held fire-direction center training as part of our operations," Halbor said. "We supported actions that were taking place on Range 29 — essentially preparing the objective before the (simulated) assault. Our location worked well for the objectives we wanted to achieve in the training."

In addition to the training opportunities, service members rely on members of the Fort McCoy workforce who support them. Sgt. 1st Class Rebecca Davison, food service specialist from Delta Company, 132nd Forward Support Battalion of Baraboo, Wis., said support she receives when coordinating dining facilities through the Troop Facility Support Branch of the Directorate of Public Works and the Logistics Readiness Center's Supply and Services Division is above and beyond what's expected.

Photo 3 for training article
Marines from the 3rd Battalion, 23rd Marine Regiment of St. Louis, Mo., return from a training range to Forward Operating Base Freedom on Fort McCoy's South Post in June.

"They all are always awesome to work with," said Davison while at weekend training earlier in the summer. "Anytime we need something, they get it to us right on time."

Sgt. Jacob Ard, horizontal construction journeyman from the 32nd Brigade Special Troops Battalion of Onalaska, Wis., praised support received from the Range Management Branch of the Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security during their training this summer.

"Range control takes care of us like no other," Ard said. "They (range management) really know how to take care of the troops who train here."

Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines all have trained at Fort McCoy this year. Marines from 3rd Battalion, 23rd (3rd, 23rd) Marine Regiment (3rd, 23rd) of Saint Louis, Mo, trained at Fort McCoy in July. Lt. Col. Shayne McGinty, 3rd, 23rd commander, said Fort McCoy ideally fits their training needs, and they'll likely return in 2015.

"Fort McCoy has afforded us all the opportunities to train as an infantry battalion," McGinty said. "The post has the ranges we need, and the support personnel have been great."

While 2014's training sessions slow down as fall and winter come, it never stops.

Units will continue to come to post for weekend training as well as extended combat training.

It's like Quinn said, "We always enjoy coming to Fort McCoy, and we'll be back again."