Fort McCoy News April 10, 2015

Iowa battalion completes weapons qualification

STORY & PHOTOS BY SCOTT T. STURKOL
Public Affairs Staff

Soldiers from the Iowa Army National Guard's 224th Engineer Battalion completed four days of unit training at Fort McCoy in late March.


Soldiers from the Iowa Army National Guard's 224th Engineer Battalion, headquartered in Fairfield, engage in M2 .50-caliber qualification training on Range 2 on Fort McCoy's North Post.

The 224th, headquartered in Fairfield, Iowa, brought more than 400 Soldiers — the entire battalion — to complete mandatory qualification training on both individual (M16 and M4 rifles, M9 pistol, and M249AR squad automatic weapon) and crew-served weapons (M249 light machine gun, M240B medium machine gun, and M2 .50-caliber automatic rifles).

In the past, the battalion Soldiers completed individual-weapons qualifications at Camp Dodge, Iowa, and the crew-served weapons training at Fort McCoy. This year, all of the training was done at Fort McCoy, said Battalion Training Officer Capt. Kiel Archer.

"For us, this was a huge training event," Archer said. "It allowed us to maximize our time and effort."

The battalion occupied several of Fort McCoy's 31 live-fire ranges to complete qualification with the M16, M4, M9, M249, M240B, and M2.

"Completing this training is an annual requirement for us, but we chose Fort McCoy because we get treated so well here," said Sgt. 1st Class Brandon McElwee, battalion supply sergeant. "For us, this also is one of the closest areas for us to convoy into and get our qualification training done. We could go (to other installations) but this place serves us well."


Platoon Leader 2nd Lt. Thomas Bentley (right) and Sgt. 1st Class James Roller (left), platoon sergeant, oversee range operations at Range 2.

The seven-hour convoy from Iowa to the installation included more than 60 tactical vehicles. Archer said the drive provided an additional training opportunity.

"Not only were we able to get all of our weapons training done, we were also able to cover other topics of training we might have been able to do in Iowa on a larger scale," Archer said. "This included convoy training, which is very important for platoon leaders."

Sgt. Deyla Sanders, 224th property book noncommissioned officer (NCO), said she qualified on the M16 and M249. As a new NCO, she said the battalion-level training provided good insight into her new responsibilities.

"It's always a new opportunity (when we) come here," she said. "During this trip, I learned to further my skills as a leader."
Mild weather helped the unit make sure everyone qualified on their weapon systems, said 2nd Lt. Thomas Bentley, platoon leader for the 832nd Mobility Augmentation Company (MAC) of Keokuk, Iowa. The 832nd MAC is a subordinate unit of the 224th.

Bentley directed training on Fort McCoy's Range 2 for Soldiers qualifying on the M2 with support from Sgt. 1st Class James Roller, 832nd platoon sergeant. Both Bentley and Roller said Range 2 was perfect for the M2 operations.

"This is a good range to do this — it has ample space and has all that's needed to do this training," Bentley said.
Roller added, "We had many Soldiers who went through their training on this range, and it worked great."

In addition to live-fire qualifications, many Soldiers used Fort McCoy's Engagement Skills Trainers.

"It's great that Fort McCoy has not only the live-fire ranges, but also the simulation training areas," McElwee said. "Everything combined allowed us to get a lot of our training done simultaneously."

All the Soldiers completed weapons qualifications in this training visit, Archer said. The 224th will focus more on engineer tasks during its annual training (AT) at Fort McCoy in June. "This was good training in preparation for our AT," he said.

Engineering units such as the 224th are equipped to support the Army's needs in many areas, including supporting public works, energy, combat engineering, and construction projects. Support is provided through engineering services, construction management, emergency contracting support for life-saving and life-sustaining services, and emergency power support.

For more information about training at Fort McCoy training, call the Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security Training Division at 608-388-5038.