Fort McCoy News Aug. 26, 2016

CSTX brings focus to joint ops, austere training

BY SCOTT T. STURKOL
Public Affairs Staff

More than 9,800 personnel with 82 units joined forces to participate in the 86th Training Division's Combat Support Training Exercise (CSTX) 86-16-03. The exercise was held at Fort McCoy Aug. 6-26.

Soldiers participating in the Combat Support Training Exercise 86-16-03 dig a defensive fighting position during the exercise.
Soldiers participating in the Combat Support Training Exercise 86-16-03
dig a defensive fighting position during the exercise.
Photo by Spc. John
Russell


Sgt. Ebone Wills with the 411th Chemical Company of Edison, N.J., exits a Humvee during a training exercise as part of the Combat Support Training Exercise 86-16-03 Aug. 12.
Sgt. Ebone Wills with the 411th Chemical Company of Edison, N.J., exits
a Humvee during a training exercise as part of the Combat Support
Training Exercise 86-16-03 Aug. 12.
Photo by Sgt. Robert Farrell


Soldiers with the 652nd Engineer Company of Ellsworth, Wis., and the 739th Engineer Company of Granite City, Ill., conduct rafting operations using MK2 Bridge Erection Boats during Combat Support Training Exercise 86-16-03 in early August at Big Sandy Lake on Fort McCoy's South Post.
Soldiers with the 652nd Engineer Company of Ellsworth, Wis., and the
739th Engineer Company of Granite City, Ill., conduct rafting operations
using MK2 Bridge Erection Boats during Combat Support Training
Exercise 86-16-03 in early August at Big Sandy Lake on Fort McCoy's
South Post.
Photo by Spc. John Russell

"(When) combining our training audience, training support, and the training partners we have that are directly affiliated with this exercise, that's how we get over 9,800," said Deputy Exercise Director Col. Mitchell Waite with the 86th Training Division. "This makes this the largest CSTX event on record."

The 2016 CSTX had a multicomponent, multiservice, and international-partner atmosphere. In addition to the Army, the exercise included elements of the Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps. Service members from Saudi Arabia and Canada also participated in the CSTX-embedded functional exercise Global Medic.

CSTX is intended to assist units to increase mission readiness and to help those units to be ready to be deployed in their available year, which is the year following CSTX, Waite said.

"If you throw in the linked functional exercises … then we are well over 11,000 (personnel) … on the ground for this training," Waite said.

Waite said this year's CSTX brought back some "old Army" flavor that helps provide experience to younger troops on training, living, and reacting to scenarios in an austere environment. For example, many units set up sleeping and operations tents in numerous wooded areas throughout post.

"This is a movement (away) from our current stability operations, which a lot of younger Soldiers have really become used to in the last 16 years or so," Waite said. "So the paradigm shift and challenge we have before us is to break that mold."

Many service members, in establishing their field operations, dug out defensive fighting positions, established field dining facilities in tents, and created functional living and operations areas with 360-degree security.

Waite said the new focus on austere operations has helped with individual training.

"The seasoned officers and noncommissioned officers who have experienced this before are embracing this and turning it into a great educational opportunity to train those younger Soldiers. I have to give a lot of credit to the units in the field that have adapted to it and embraced it — they did a good job. We have seen things that haven't been done before (in this exercise)."

Getting to the point where troops are successful in the field is due to an abundance of planning completed long before the exercise began, Waite said.

"An event such as this normally involves about 18 months of planning," Waite said. "It starts with a concept development workshop and continues from there. You have to push (the planning) way out because when you have this many units, and especially for CSTX when you have a lot of sister services involved and international partners who participate, you really have to do a great deal of planning far in advance to get everything locked in.

"So when you break it down, that is probably 90 to 95 percent of the reason we have success during these exercises," he said.

The exercise planning and execution also includes collaboration with many agencies, including the 86th, 75th Training Command, Medical Readiness and Training Command, 181st Infantry Brigade, and the Fort McCoy garrison.

Spc. Siarah Bostic with the 47th Combat Support Hospital, 62nd Medical Brigade, adjusts a guide rope  on an OE254 Antenna during Combat Support Training Exercise 86-16-03 operations at Fort McCoy in early August.
Spc. Siarah Bostic with the 47th
Combat Support Hospital, 62nd
Medical Brigade, adjusts a guide
rope on an OE254 Antenna during
Combat Support Training Exercise
86-16-03 operations at Fort
McCoy in early August.
Photo by
Spc. John Russell

Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security (DPTMS) Training Coordination Branch Chief Craig Meeusen discussed the early planning process for exercises like CSTX.

"The benefit of going to early planning meetings is that we are not only getting the requirements about the exercises and what their future requirements will be, it also gives us a chance to tell how unique (Fort McCoy's) facilities are and what improvements we have made in order to assist them in what they want to do," Meeusen said.

Waite said all the partners help make the exercise a success and are appreciated.

"Because this exercise is so massive and there are so many moving parts, and it can be so complicated and complex, no one unit can do this by themselves," Waite said. "It takes all the training partners working together in collaboration to make these things successful."

For more information about the 86th Training Division, go online to www.usar.army.mil/Commands/Training/84th-TNG-CMD/86th-TNG-DIV. For more information about training opportunities at Fort McCoy, call 608-388-8589.