Fort McCoy News October 10, 2014

McCoy's CACTF offers high-tech training environment

STORY & PHOTOS BY SCOTT T. STURKOL
Public Affairs Staff

With dozens of "brick-and-mortar" buildings and numerous ranges under its umbrella, Fort McCoy's Combined Arms Collective Training Facility (CACTF) is one of the most-used training areas on the installation.

"The CACTF provides a wide variety of training environments, and has a capability to give detailed after-action reviews (AARs) for those people who train here," said CACTF Manager Matthew Schwark of Advanced Systems Technology.

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Students Amber Leisen and Jeremy Likely from Western Technical College of Sparta, Wis., participate in a law-enforcement training scenario at Fort McCoy's Combined Arms Collective Training Facility complex.

The support buildings in the CACTF complex represent multistory residential, commercial, government, business and industrial operations, Schwark said. Underground tunnel and sewer training areas also are on site.

The newest additions to the complex are a subway train station building and a Structure Collapse Venue Site, which can support rescue training by firefighters and other emergency responders.

"The biggest thing about us is our recording capabilities," Schwark said. "We can record people in training in just about any area of the complex and give them instant playback. We can also edit all of the training footage together and provide that training group a package of discs they can view later for further training analysis."

The CACTF has approximately 80 percent camera coverage of the facility interiors as well as three exterior cameras. As people train there, they also have the capability to stream in audio and other effects to simulate the "sights, sounds and smells" of combat operations. There also is a 100-seat AAR theater available for use.

The complex was built at a cost of more than $14 million and was completed in late 2012. The first people to use the CACTF for training were from the Federal Bureau of Investigation in March 2013. Since then, it's been used by hundreds of different military units as well as law-enforcement agencies.

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The Combined Arms Collective Training Facility complex has dozens of "brick-and-mortar" buildings, like those shown here, designed to house training opportunities for years to come.

"We've had many people from the Army train here," Schwark said. "We've also had units from the Marine Corps and Air Force, as well as law enforcement, such as local sheriff departments and the state troopers train here."

Sgt. Bob DeFrang, an instructor at the Wisconsin State Patrol Academy, said state troopers use the CACTF regularly because it offers a training environment found in few other places.

"It provides us with a lot of realism," DeFrang said. "For example, we can use one of the residential buildings to hold a scenario where a trooper is responding to a domestic disturbance — something we face regularly in law enforcement.

"With the video and audio coverage, we can review their responses and assess how they did, as well," DeFrang said.

DeFrang added every Wisconsin state trooper, nearly 500 in all, went through training scenarios at the CACTF earlier this year to refresh many of their skills. "The (staff) there is excellent to work with, and it's just a great place for us to train," he said.

Schwark said the CACTF also works well for training convoy operations and military operations in urban terrain.

"We've even had units bivouac near our training area, and they would run training scenarios in 24-hour operations," Schwark said.

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A recent addition to the Combined Arms Collective Training Facility complex is the Structure Collapse Venue Site shown here.

Matt Brietzke, a level-three electronic technician and team leader, said the CACTF staff works directly with customers to tailor training events and plans to meet objectives.

With all the support the staff can provide, and with the types of training venues available at the CACTF, Brietzke said training at the complex is the best available.

"In a short period of time, we can support our customers in a very realistic training event in an urban setting, capture (record) that event quickly through the use of our system, and edit that footage to provide a quick-turn AAR," Brietzke said. He estimated that CACTF staff can have playback of a completed event available in as soon as 10 minutes after a training event concludes.

"We can then bring up to 100 people into the theater and play the footage back for them," Brietzke said. "The training is still fresh in their minds, and they can see what went right, what went wrong, and how they can do it better next time."

Brietzke said the CACTF has very few places in its nearly 73,000 feet of interior building space "you can go where you are not on camera."

"We also can have commanders and their leadership teams observe training live while it's happening," Schwark said. "Essentially, we can provide a training environment that allows flexibility for unit leaders in efficiently steering training to where they want it to go."

CACTF staff members also support 15 training ranges as part of the complex. Remote video systems and a variety of support equipment are located throughout the ranges. Staff members like Ryan Gore, a level-two electronic technician at the CACTF, help to maintain and operate them.

"Around here, you have to be capable to do a lot of things," Gore said.

The CACTF staff includes people with a variety of talents. "We could be hanging doors in a facility, fabricating something for another, or we could be fixing something on a video system," Gore said. "Essentially, anything that is related to the CACTF and needs maintenance — we take care of it."

Installation Range Officer Mike Todd of the Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security said having the CACTF signifies the Army is investing in high-quality training at Fort McCoy.

"The fact that we have a CACTF is a very big deal," said Todd. "It's a wonderful training facility that helps many units meet training objectives and more."

The CACTF helps units grow significantly, he said.

"When a unit can come in here, have their Soldiers learn and have those self-discovery moments, it helps make that unit that much better," said Todd, a retired Army officer who commanded several units. "The CACTF allows for that unique training experience."

After more than 20 months in full operation, Schwark said the CACTF staff will continue to work hard to meet customer needs.

"The Fort McCoy CACTF offers one of the best training areas, training aids, and the best staff anywhere," he said.

For more information about the CACTF, call 608-388-1257.