Story by Scott Sturkol on 04/08/2019More than 220 students who were part of six, 14-day training sessions graduated from the Cold-Weather Operations Course (CWOC) during the 2018-19 winter training season at Fort McCoy.
Overall, nearly 400 service members including Marines, Sailors, and Soldiers received some type of cold-weather operations training from CWOC instructors.
Students included a Total Force aspect with mix of Guard, Reserve, and active-duty service members participating in the course. A contingent of Army Rangers participated in class 19-05.
It was also a season with multiservice involvement with Marines as well as Navy personnel participating in several classes.
"I think this season went really well," said Hunter Heard, CWOC instructor who works for contractor Veterans Range Solutions, which supports the Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security, or DPTMS. "This season was great for the students because of the weather we had throughout the season, so the students got the full exposure of cold-weather and snow."
The CWOC is modeled after the Cold-Weather Leader Course taught by the Army Northern Warfare Training Center (NWTC) at Black Rapids, Alaska. During training, students learned about a wide range of cold-weather subjects, including skiing and snowshoe training as well as how to use ahkio sleds and the Arctic 10-person cold-weather tent, and how to build improvised shelters.
"This course demonstrated through crawl, walk, and run phases the vital tasks of cold-weather operations," said Capt. Christopher Scott Peterman with the 349th Tactical Psychological Operations Company of Aurora, Colo., who was a student in CWOC Class 19-06. "I will take the knowledge I learned here and share it with my detachment and company. Directly, this course taught me to manage uncomfortable situations and how to better work in a team with others."
For each class, students would start off with classroom training and then move into various aspects of field training utilizing many types of equipment. CWOC Instructor Joe Ernst said some came to the course having never been on skis or snowshoes.
"We would have many students who couldn't ski when they got here, and then when they leave two weeks later, they are pretty good at it," Ernst said. "We are fortunate to have a place like Whitetail Ridge Ski Area for them to train on as well. It's a great facility that always has what's needed to teach the skiing portion of our training."
Students also completed miles and miles of ruck marching in the snow and cold during the season. Sometimes the students were marching in snowshoes and skis and they covered dozens of miles.
"The training is by no means easy," said CWOC Instructor Manny Ortiz. "They have to work hard and work as a team to complete this course and graduate."
During field training, students also completed terrain and weather analysis, camouflage and concealment, and risk management; learned to properly wear cold-weather clothing and prevent cold-weather injuries; developed winter fighting positions and improvised shelters in the field; and built teamwork skills, Ernst said.
More students may sign up for training because of the successes already achieved in the course.
"Fort McCoy is always a good place for any kind of training I have done since joining the military," said Class 19-06 student Sgt. Joshua Harvey with the 323rd Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Company of Sioux Falls, S.D. "I will definitely be encouraging Soldiers from my unit to attend this course because it is good training and the instructors are full of endless knowledge."
CWOC classes resume again in December, Heard said, and they expect to train the same amount of students or more.
Additionally, Fort McCoy can tailor the classes to support the unit commander's training objectives during extreme weather, said DPTMS Director Brad Stewart.
"We have held 4- to 8-hour courses with Operation Cold Steel sustainment gunnery crews and two- to four-day courses with units from the 181st Multifunctional Training Brigade," Stewart said. "Our job is to train as many Soldiers to operate in cold weather and see it as a combat enabler, rather than an inhibitor. Our focus is on junior leaders because they will be the ones training their junior Soldiers how to operate, fight, and win in extreme weather conditions. Exposure and training prior to combat increases readiness and builds muscle memory for success on today's battlefields."
Fort McCoy has supported America's armed forces since 1909. The post's varied terrain, state-of-the-art ranges, new as well as renovated facilities, and extensive support infrastructure combine to provide military personnel with an environment in which to develop and sustain the skills necessary for mission success.
Learn more about Fort McCoy online at www.mccoy.army.mil, on Facebook by searching "ftmccoy," and on Twitter by searching "usagmccoy."