Minnesota Guard’s 1st, 34th BCT trains at Fort McCoy for deployment
July 11, 2011
FORT MCCOY, Wis. -- Convoys with five to eight tactical vehicles maneuvered along routes throughout Fort McCoy as part of mobilization training for the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division. The 1st, 34th is a Minnesota Army National Guard unit.
The training went well for the 34th’s approximately 2,300 Soldiers, according to Maj. Stephen Heinz, operations officer with the 340th Training Support Battalion, 181st Infantry Brigade, the mobilization trainers at Fort McCoy.
“The 34th’s training was a lot of lanes training,” Heinz said. “The convoys trained to react to improvised explosive devices, small-arms fire from insurgents (performed by opposing forces soldiers), RKG-3 attacks (a hand-thrown grenade-like projectile still being utilized in theater), explosively formed projectiles, and interaction with local-national civilians.”
“Training has gone very well,” Heinz said. “There have been a few hiccups here and there, but no real issues. They conduct their after-action reviews following each section of training and, if necessary, redo that portion of the exercise. That’s what the 34th’s commander wanted, what First Army wanted, all to meet First Army standards, and the 181st helped the 34th accomplish the commander’s objectives.”
The 34th is deploying in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, but is going to Kuwait to support the drawdown of personnel, equipment and supplies from Iraq to Kuwait.
“Much of the 34th’s work will be moving equipment from Iraq to Kuwait as the U.S. reduces its footprint in Iraq,” Heinz said.
The 34th’s commander’s focus also included gunnery training with live-fire exercises, Heinz said.
“We trained 34th Soldiers to deploy, and, on top of that, conducted it along with the other training occurring at Fort McCoy. It was a joint effort with the Fort McCoy Garrison and the 181st Brigade. Everyone very effectively utilized the training assets at Fort McCoy.”
Command Sgt. Maj. John Lepowsky, command sergeant major with the 194th Armor, one of the several battalions comprising the 34th, expressed his satisfaction with the training his Soldiers received at Fort McCoy.
“We received outstanding training at Fort McCoy,” Lepowsky said. “The 181st Brigade’s observer-controller-trainers did an outstanding job of mentoring us, and providing valuable feedback.”
“Fort McCoy provided realistic scenarios and provided our Soldiers with tasks that enabled us to develop the skills necessary to do our mission overseas. It helped give us a chance to refine our Standing Operating Procedures to be able to react quickly to any scenario threat forces may make.”
Lepowsky said the persistent rain throughout June “made training a little more difficult, but, by conducting risk management, we continued to train, and had very few issues. The rain slowed the pace down a little, but our crews gelled and became more proficient, and that’s a key to training.”
“All of the 34th’s battalions worked well together and shared lessons learned, so we all benefitted from the experience,” Lepowsky said.
Lepowsky complimented Fort McCoy for the good living conditions and for the Caiman mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicle training on the drivers’ course and the Caiman rollover training provided at the Wisconsin Military Academy. “Vehicle safety is our number one priority. Overall, the training and experience we received at McCoy made us more proficient and that will pay dividends when we get overseas.”