Fort McCoy News May 23, 2014

CSTX provides realistic joint training environment

86th Training Division Public Affairs

FORT MCCOY, Wis. — The 86th Training Division hosted the Army Reserve's largest Combat Support Training Exercise (CSTX), Operation Saber Strike, here April 26 to May 16.

Photo 1 for CSTX article
Soldiers with the 44th Chemical Company, Fort Hood, Texas, prepare to enter and clear a building of opposing forces during a simulated chemical attack at Fort McCoy. Photo by Spc. Robert Farrell

More than 7,000 service members from the Army, Navy and Air Force participated in this CSTX, bringing an even greater realistic joint training environment on an unprecedented scale.

CSTX culminates years of planning and coordination with partner units including the 86th Training Division, 75th Training Command, Medical Readiness and Training Command (MRTC), 181st Infantry Brigade, First Army, and the Fort McCoy installation.

This partnership provides participating unit commanders an opportunity to train and assess mission-essential tasks in a multi-functional, multi-echelon and multi-component environment.

"This is a great opportunity for our Soldiers; it is a first for us. Working with the Air Force and Navy helps us get a feel for working together," said Col. John W. Fasano, commander of the 332nd Medical Brigade of Nashville, Tenn. "It is interoperability we don't normally experience."

Commanders constantly must balance effective, meaningful training with a safe environment for troops. The CSTX fulfills the need for realistic training in tactical scenarios where Soldiers encounter a hostile and austere environment.

Photo 5 for CSTX article
Soldiers with the 44th enter a building to clear it of
opposing forces during a simulated chemical attack.

Photo by Spc. Robert Farrell

"This training prepares units to perform a more-complex mission that challenges and stresses them in a tactical environment," said Brig. Gen. George R. Thompson, commander of the 86th Training Division and CSTX director. "As participants in the exercise, the Air Force, Navy, Army, active component, MRTC and Diamond Saber integrated and supported each other to perform the mission our nation asks us to do."

Other components that participated in CSTX included the 10th Mountain Division, Army National Guard, Army Reserve, Army Reserve Officer Training Corps, Air Force Reserve, Navy Reserve, Department of Veterans Affairs and volunteer civilian doctors.

As a joint endeavor, Operation Saber Strike combined different military elements to form a more-cohesive force. Many service members work only within their branch at the home station, but then work jointly while deployed. The CSTX bridges this gap.

"I like the joint exercise part of this because it brings more to the table," said Petty Officer 3rd Class Ashton Moyer, corpsman with the Expeditionary Medical Facility Great Lakes One from Great Lakes, Ill. "This was my first exposure to the Army. We had a simulated attack, and it was cool to see the Army doing battle drills while we performed casualty assessments."

Units from each participating branch at CSTX obtain a complete evaluation, which consists of multi-level collective training proficiency and assistance in achieving unit-specific tasks in technical and tactical skills. The training increases in intensity through a realistic and demanding experience on several levels.

"Soldiers who haven't deployed receive guidance from experienced ones," said Command Sgt. Maj. (CSM) Neil Heupel, CSM of the 86th Training Division. "They grow a great deal after learning from their mistakes, but in a safe training environment."

The benefit of training both new and experienced Soldiers together is there is an added level of learning and professional growth by the end of the exercise.

Photo 4 for CSTX article
A Soldier with the 44th Chemical Company, Fort hood, Texas, evacuates a fellow Soldier during a chemical attack exercise.
Photos by Spc. Robert Farrell

Service members can walk away from the CSTX with new knowledge and unit cohesion, including the active component.

"It's great that we are out here learning how to fight as one team and bring all of our skills together to form a better military," said Spc. Dakota Hosier, team leader with the 10th Mountain Division, 287th Brigade, D Company. "We learn a lot about each other and our team by providing opposition forces, as well."

Many Reserve and National Guard service members benefitted from the intensive training CSTX provides.

CSTX is a way to provide exposure to each service members' military occupational specialty they don't receive during battle assembly weekends, especially on the enlisted side.

"This is great training for the enlisted Soldiers who don't have these opportunities elsewhere," said Maj. Tim Hudson, nurse anesthetist, attached to the 345th from the 320th Medical Company out of Greensboro, N.C., regarding training on a human-worn partial task surgical simulator Cut Suit. "Many of the enlisted scrub techs don't see this in real life. This provides an opportunity for them to participate in surgery here so they aren't as shocked and surprised when it's the real thing."

Photo 2 for CSTX article
Sgt. Maj. Birgit James, Medical Readiness and Training
Command, prepares a Cut Suit, a human-worn, partial-
task surgical simulator.
Photos by Spc. Robert Farrell

CSTX is a unique opportunity for Reserve and National Guard units to conduct joint training at a prime location and with different equipment.

The exercise provides experience for Soldiers who want to better their skills, but lack the resources necessary to obtain commander objectives and goals.

"This was a great refresher," said Capt. Ryan Callahan, commander of the 323rd Chemical Company from Sioux Falls, S.D., as his unit conducted detailed equipment and troop decontamination. "It's not often that we get to do this on a large scale. During battle assembly weekends, we train on the separate parts, but never to this extent."

The 86th has continued to build in size and depth as enthusiasm grew for the training since its first exercise in 2010. This type of training is a necessity for a cohesive force for future operations.

"It would be wonderful if all units could take advantage of these types of opportunities," said Rear Adm. Victor Hall, deputy commander of Navy Medicine West Headquarters at San Diego, Caif. "There are exercises on both coasts, and the Midwest. We have these operations and collaboration, and it's been phenomenal. It's a fever that's starting to grow."



Photo 3 for CSTX article
Navy Cmdr. Mark Stowers and Cmdr. Steve Evelhoch,
surgeons with the Expeditionary Medical Facility Great
Lakes One, operate on a Cut Suit.
Photo by Spc. Robert Farrell