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This month in Fort McCoy history: September 2019

This month in Fort McCoy history: September 2019

Story by Theresa R Fitzgerald on 09/11/2019

Fort McCoy, Wis., was established in 1909. Here is a look back at some installation history from September 2019 and back.

73 Years Ago Sept. 20, 1946
From uniforms to “civvies” now from “civvies” to uniforms. Camp McCoy, the one-time big separation center, completely reversed the process when it became an Armed Forces Induction Center.

According to Col. Newton G. Bush, post commander in 1946, the transfer of the induction station from Fort Snelling, Minn., to this post was considered in line with the strict economy policy that was announced by the War Department. It involved both personnel and monetary considerations.

In serving North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, and Wisconsin, it was expected that Camp McCoy would process 180 men per day. Housing capacity for 1,000 men was also set up.

30 Years Ago Sept. 1, 1989
Capt. Bill Sharer accepted the flag of command of Headquarters Company, U.S. Army Garrison Fort McCoy, passed to him by Capt. Bill Brase, in a change-of-command ceremony Sept. 1, 1989.

Brase, who was assigned to Fort McCoy for the four previous years and was the post’s military personnel officer before commanding the headquarters company, left to become the deputy Gl/adjutant general of the 1st Armored Division in Ansbach, West Germany.

Sharer, who was at Fort McCoy since March 1987 in the Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security, said he planned to help the Soldiers of the company by enhancing their esprit de corps.

20 Years Ago Sept. 10, 1999
Operation Platinum Wrench completed its second year at Fort McCoy by September 1999. The training offered Soldiers a number of hands-on training opportunities.

The M915A4 Glider Kit conversion program, a U.S. Army Reserve Command program, marked the end of its second year of production with the completion of about 30 Glider Kits.

The vehicles were line-haul tractors, which were used to deliver supplies. Ed Lukasek, chief of Production and Supply Control for the Installation Materiel Maintenance Activity (IMMA), said the 890th Transportation Company of Green Bay, Wis., was scheduled to get the first completed Glider Kits by the first quarter of 2000. The vehicles were awaiting final inspection.

“The program saves a lot of money and gives the troops valuable training,” Lukasek said. The Platinum Wrench program for the summer of 1999 also was expanded to cover a number of different training missions. Missions included preparing shower and bath units for shipment, repairing canvas items, such as general purpose tents aid shelter covers, and performing supply functions to support the IMMA mission.

10 Years Ago Sept. 25, 2009
Training as you fight and taking positive actions were keys for a Silver Star recipient who was well received by a Fort McCoy audience during a Year of the Noncommissioned Officer (NCO) event Sept. 25, 2009.

Sgt. Gregory S. Ruske, only the fifth U.S. Army Reserve Soldier to receive the Silver Star for heroic actions in Afghanistan or Iraq, said his actions were a great credit to his training and the NCOs who served as his trainers and mentors.

Ruske earned the Silver Star for his actions April 21, 2008, in Afghanistan’s Kapisa province, a remote area not accessible by vehicles.

Taliban operatives ambushed his unit while they were on patrol and unleashed a heavy gunfire and grenade assault. Ruske immediately responded, suppressing the enemy with accurate rifle and grenade fire.
Because he’d only been an NCO for a year, Ruske said he believed it was more appropriate for him to talk about how his life experiences and the NCOs he worked under had helped shape his military career.

Ruske said he was raised by a single mother, enlisted in the Army in the infantry field in 1998 and served three years on active duty before being discharged in 2001. “I spent a lot of time in the field and wasn’t a big fan of it,” Ruske said. “That was to be expected. I was an 18-year-old and thought I knew everything there was to know.

“I kept asking, Why do we keep going to the field, training and doing the same thing over and over and over. It’s getting a little monotonous and redundant,'” he said.

The most tangible benefit he could see was it allowed him to max out his physical training score in push-ups, Ruske said.

After he left active duty, Ruske attended college and received his degree. He went on to work as a corrections officer and joined the Army Reserve.

He was assigned to the 5025th Garrison Support Unit, an Army Reserve unit in Colorado Springs, Colo., before he volunteered to serve a tour of duty in Afghanistan. In Afghanistan, he served with 3rd Platoon, A Company, Task Force Gladiator, Combined Task Force 101.

5 Years Ago Sept. 5, 2014
Marcus Theatres announced the award-winning “Fort McCoy” movie debut in Wisconsin at Ho-Chunk Cinema in Tomah and Cinema Theatre in La Crosse on Sept. 5.

With a good portion of the film shot at Fort McCoy and in La Crosse, local markets got the first opportunity in the state to see the movie.

“Fort McCoy” is a drama, written, co-produced, and co-directed by Kate Connor, who also stars in the film, playing her real-life grandmother.

Based on a true story, she shares the experience of her mother’s family in the American Army and POW camp at then-Camp McCoy in the summer of 1944.

Connor’s grandparents, Frank and Ruby Stirn, move to Fort McCoy for Frank to become a barber for the American Army. Upset that he cannot fight, Frank takes a stand when a Nazi SS officer threatens his wife. The film continues by telling that story and others, representing the family’s time at Fort McCoy.

While an independent film, “Fort McCoy” picked up more than 20 awards and accolades, including Best Drama at Cannes Independent Film Festival. Plus Connor won Best Actress at the Milan International Film Festival.

In 2014, Monterey Media Inc. acquired North American rights to distribute the movie, which had a limited release planned for summer.
“Marcus Theatres is thrilled to be the first cinemas in Wisconsin to present this film to the Fort McCoy community,” said Rolando Rodriguez, president and chief executive officer for Marcus Theatres.

“In fact, on Sept. 3, there is an invitation-only premiere showing of the movie at the Ho-Chunk Cinema intended primarily for the military at Fort McCoy. This is Marcus Theatres’ way of recognizing the connection between the movie and the base in a special way.”

(Note: A poster of the movie and two prisoner-of-war, or POW, shirts worn in the film, representative of the shirts worn by 1940s POWs, are on display in the Fort McCoy History Center.)

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