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Snowshoeing among critical skills practiced, learned by students in CWOC at Fort McCoy

Snowshoeing among critical skills practiced, learned by students in CWOC at Fort McCoy

Story by Scott Sturkol on 02/15/2019

Each class of the Cold-Weather Operations Course (CWOC) at Fort McCoy requires a lot of field time during the 14 days of training. And a good portion of that field time includes students completing their movements on snowshoes.

In a cold-weather, snow-filled environment, having snowshoes and the skill to use them is essential, said Bill Hamilton, lead Cold-Weather Operations Course instructor who works for contractor Veterans Range Solutions, which supports the Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security, or DPTMS.

“Practically every day, when we’re in the field, the students are using snowshoes or skis,” Hamilton said. “The snowshoes we use are about 20 inches long, and they are the same snowshoes used at the Northern Warfare Training Center (NWTC) in Alaska.”

Students spend 20-30 hours training on the snowshoes and using them in the field, Hamilton said.

“During the course, we complete training scenarios all over the post,” Hamilton said. “Our students use ahkio sleds to haul all of their equipment, and they will traverse through nearly 35 miles of terrain, much of that on snowshoes.”

ROTC Cadet John Reid Bailey of Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas, said participating as a student in CWOC Class 19-02 doing field time with snowshoes and other equipment helped him better understand what it takes to operate in cold weather.

“Coming into this course, I had never enjoyed the cold or operated in it,” Bailey said. “Learning how to thrive in this course provided me with much-needed skills.”

“This course has helped me become a subject-matter expert on thriving in the cold,” said ROTC Cadet Brock Lippiatt with the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse who was a student in class 19-02. “It will all allow me to share this knowledge now and in the future.”

Guiding students all the way through the training regimen, including teaching them when to use snowshoes, are the instructors.

“The instructors were critical in the success and enjoyment of the course,” said class 19-03 student 2nd Lt. Mitchell Reis with B Company, 1st Battalion, 128th Infantry, 32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, of New Richmond, Wis. “All of them are intelligent subject-matter experts and are easily approachable.”

In addition to snowshoeing, students also learn about a wide range of cold-weather subjects, including skiing, use of ahkio sleds, and setting up the Arctic 10-person cold-weather tent. Training also teaches terrain and weather analysis, risk management, proper cold-weather clothing use, developing winter fighting positions in the field, camouflage and concealment, and more.

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, on Facebook by searching “ftmccoy,” and on Twitter by searching “usagmccoy.

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