Fort McCoy News April 24, 2015

Wisconsin Army ROTC units combine for exercise

STORY & PHOTOS BY SCOTT T. STURKOL
Public Affairs Staff

Nearly 200 Army ROTC cadets and staff from six Wisconsin universities participated in a three-day Task Force McCoy training exercise April 10-12.

Photo 1
ROTC cadets set up a perimeter defense during training in the Task Force McCoy exercise April 10 at Combat Outpost Lashgar on Fort McCoy's South Post.

The exercise is designed to prepare and develop ROTC cadets, who typically are college juniors, for participation in the U.S. Army Cadet Command's Cadet Leader Course (CLC) at Fort Knox, Ky., later this year, said Lt. Col. Michael Gibson, professor of military science at Marquette University in Milwaukee. Gibson led the coordination effort for the overall exercise.

"We had 145 junior and senior cadets who formed four platoons covering six missions in this training," Gibson said. "The platoons were intermingled cadets from all universities participating and had between 34 and 36 cadets in each platoon."

In addition to Marquette University, ROTC cadets from University of Wisconsin (UW)-Madison, UW-Stout, UW-Stevens Point (SP), UW-La Crosse, and UW-Oshkosh also participated. All of the ROTC detachments from these schools are part of the Cadet Command's 3rd Brigade.

"From each school, there were at least one or two cadre members attending, and there also were four or five senior cadets who mentored squad leaders in each platoon," Gibson said. "They all mentored (the cadets) to get prepared for deployment to the training area and to start the training."

Soldiers from the 181st Infantry Brigade (IB), a tenant unit at Fort McCoy, also helped mentor the students.

Photo 2
Cadet battalion leaders plan a mission strategy for one of the exercise training lanes.

"The synergy that we created with the 181st (IB) was absolutely phenomenal out here because the experience those senior captains and senior noncommissioned officers brought was a lot greater than the (senior cadets)," Gibson said.

"With the support of the 181st, along with the other coaches and mentors, we had 11 people who supported each platoon of 36 cadets. That's an incredible number of people who helped each of the training cadets learn during this exercise."

Capt. G. Matt Espinosa, one of the 181st IB advisers who supported the ROTC training, said having senior leaders from the 181st coach, teach, and mentor the cadets was "very advantageous."

"Not only did this exercise contribute to the ROTC's training objective, but it allowed 181st to expose newly assigned captains and senior NCOs to the roll of observer-coach/teacher," Espinosa said. "I believe that combining our knowledge and expertise, along with the current ROTC's cadre, truly enhanced the overall training objective, which is to development future junior leaders with tough, realistic training."

Photo 3
ROTC students march in a patrol formation during the Task Force McCoy exercise.

Locations near Combat Outpost Lashgar on Fort McCoy's South Post were the site of each of the six missions, or training lanes, in which the cadet platoons participated. Despite only working together for a short time, Gibson said each platoon used the latest Army Warrior Tasks and tactics, techniques, and procedures to plan each mission and objective.

"In just 12 hours after arriving, they had to form with a new organization and begin leading a tactical mission," Gibson said. "This was an effort to force them to think, and that's what we want them to do."

The cadets practiced key-leader engagements, patrol formations, and mission planning. They also formed perimeter security and quick-reaction force teams.

Lt. Col. Gary Thompson, professor of military science at UW-SP, explained how cadet platoons participated in one of the training lanes.

"They would have to come in as a platoon to (a) village and have the leaders of that platoon find a way to gain information they could use for later," Thompson said. "They engaged with role-players, some from my school, and would maintain a peaceful presence."

One of those role-players was UW-SP sophomore Cadet Ryan Dombreck. He said the training events helped him learn and prepare for the Task Force McCoy exercise in 2016.

"From my perspective, I was able to see how the (juniors) reacted to each situation," Dombreck said. "I know that later on in my ROTC career I'm going to be in their shoes, so seeing the training from (a role-player's) perspective puts a different spin on everything.

"Being (a role-player) means I can see and learn how they reacted as they came through our lane," Dombreck said.
Gibson said Fort McCoy offers the best training environment for the Wisconsin universities to hold the exercise.

"I've been in the Army for 21 years now, and Fort McCoy is one of the nicest bases for training," Gibson said. "It has awesome villages, awesome (combat outposts), and … provides the space where we can train like this because we don't have the resources to do that where we are.

"We can get a lot of bang for our buck here," Gibson said. "And it's not just the villages — it's also the ranges, which are very good; the rappel tower; confidence course; and all the facilities. Fort McCoy has some of the best facilities I have seen in my career, and it's pretty impressive."

Dombreck shared a student's perspective about Fort McCoy.

"We get to have a real military feel here at Fort McCoy, and the resources we have available — the support and the terrain here — is really critical in how we conduct operations," Dombreck said. "It's really good to train here."

Gibson also said the students should now be better prepared to go to the CLC at Fort Knox this summer.

The CLC is a 29-day course that starts with individual training and leads to collective training by building up from simple to complex tasks.

"This has been an eye-opening experience for many of the cadets," Gibson said. "We can train on our campus, but really, until they train with other people and see where they stand, it doesn't help them measure where they need to be. They learned a lot here, and they'll be able to have a few months (now) to better prepare themselves for CLC."

According to the Directorate of Plans, Mobilization, Training and Security Training Division, ROTC students are regular customers for training at Fort McCoy. In fiscal year 2014, 2,734 ROTC cadets trained at the installation.

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