Story by Scott Sturkol on 03/06/2019Since December 2018, dozens of students have completed Fort McCoy's Cold-Weather Operations Course, which is coordinated by the Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security (DPTMS).
Many of those students, through feedback provided to the course operators, have said Fort McCoy is ideal for what the course teaches the students about cold-weather military operations.
"The terrain is surprisingly challenging," said Sgt. Jose Alvarez, a CWOC Class 19-01 student with Detachment 1, B Company, 1st Battalion, 128th Infantry of the Wisconsin National Guard at Rice Lake. "The terrain provides a wide range of landscapes and obstacles that can help get Soldiers to think creatively and provide learning opportunities."
Landscape and terrain are an important part of the experience in the course, said Bill Hamilton, lead CWOC instructor who works for contractor Veterans Range Solutions, which supports DPTMS. Students cover dozens of miles during their 14 days of course training.
"Not only does the fort provide multiple terrain features, it also has the right kind of (winter) climate to add to the challenges of the training," said Spc. Ellijah Ellison, also a CWOC Class 19-01 student with the 452nd Combat Support Hospital of Fort Snelling, Minn.
"Fort McCoy has a lot of open space," said Cadet Justin Fries, also a CWOC Class 19-01 student with Loyola University of Chicago. "This space allows for the areas needed to learn how build shelters, how to apply camouflage for snowy environments, and for learning how to pull the ahkio sled as a team."
During every CWOC class, students learn about skiing, snowshoeing, improvised-shelter and Arctic-tent building, ahkio sled use, use of tent heaters, how to build a fire, and more.
They also learn terrain and weather analysis, risk management, cold-weather clothing, developing winter fighting positions in the field, and camouflage and concealment.
Staff Sgt. Kimberly Gorman, CWOC Class 19-02 student with the 431st Civil Affairs Battalion at Little Rock, Ark., said Fort McCoy's unique terrain helped her gain valuable skills.
"Fort McCoy really is a good place to teach this course," Gorman said. "Some skill sets I take with me from the course include learning how to build and sustain a fire using multiple techniques and working as a team or squad during movements carrying equipment and pulling an ahkio sled. Spending a week in the field to test our skills was really one of the best parts of the course."
Sgt. Nicholas Powers, a CWOC Class 19-02 student also from the 1st Battalion, 128th Infantry of the Wisconsin National Guard, said the post is great for all kinds of training. "I've been to Fort McCoy for all my field training exercises for seven years, and it's always a solid location for training, specifically for cold-weather training," he said.
CWOC training is in its third consecutive winter season at Fort McCoy and many students have said that more and more Soldiers need to complete the course.
"Fort McCoy is excellent for this training because it often encompasses many of the cold-weather extremes you could see around the country," said CWOC Class 19-03 student 2nd Lt. Conner Intress with the 824th Engineer Company (Vertical) of the Wisconsin National Guard at Spooner.
"I would recommend that any unit that often works in cold weather should send at least one Soldier to this course so they'd have a subject-matter expert on hand."
"Fort McCoy serves as an excellent training ground to hone the skills learned in this course," said CWOC Class 19-03 student Sgt. Charles Bacon, also with the 1st Battalion, 128th Infantry of the Wisconsin National Guard. "The weather, for example, varies wildly at times where you could have below-zero temperatures and then wet and damp conditions.
"Unpredictable weather really adds to the overall experience more Soldiers need to take this course," he said.
A total of six CWOC classes are being conducted through the end of March.
Located in the heart of the upper Midwest, Fort McCoy is the only U.S. Army installation in Wisconsin. The installation has provided support and facilities for the field and classroom training of more than 100,000 military personnel from all services each year since 1984.
Learn more about Fort McCoy online at https://home.army.mil/mccoy, on Facebook by searching "ftmccoy," and on Twitter by searching "usagmccoy.