Students in the Army's 91-series military occupational specialties are now being trained in the Regional Training Site (RTS)-Maintenance's Tracked Vehicle Recovery Course at Fort McCoy.

In October, RTS-Maintenance held its first of three sessions of the course during fiscal year 2018. The course provides the H8 additional skill identifier, or ASI, for 91-series Soldiers.

"The course consists of 134 hours of classroom, field, and hands-on training," said Staff Sgt. Matthew C. Squatrito, course instructor. It focuses on determining recovery methods; operating metal-cutting equipment; tracked vehicle preventive maintenance checks and services and basic issue items; driving tracked recovery vehicles and operating the various winches on those vehicles; booms, hoists, and auxiliary equipment; recovering mired and overturned tracked vehicles; towing disabled tracked vehicles; and self-recovery of tracked vehicles.

Staff Sgt. Raymond Brand, an instructor with the 13th Battalion, 100th Regiment (13th, 100th) at Fort McCoy, was a student in the inaugural course. He said the training was beneficial in many ways.

"It helps me to be able to hone my skills and become a better asset to the Army," Brand said. "I really enjoyed the hands-on training in this course. Getting to work with this kind of equipment is great."

Squatrito said students learned how to operate the M88A1 Medium-Tracked Recovery Vehicle and the M88A2 Heavy Equipment Recovery Combat Utility Lifting Extraction System, or HERCULES.

The M88A1 is a diesel-powered, full-tracked armored vehicle used to perform battlefield rescue and recovery missions, according to Army statistics about the vehicle. It performs hoisting, winching, and towing operations supporting recovery operations and evacuation of heavy tanks and other tracked combat vehicles. It also has a fueling-defueling capability and is fully equipped to provide maintenance and recovery support for the main battle tank family and similar vehicles.

"It's a beast," Squatrito said.

The HERCULES is just as formidable for recovery operations. It recovers mired tanks, removes and replaces tank turrets and power packs, and uprights overturned heavy combat vehicles, according to the Army Acquisition Support Center, or ASC. The main winch on the M88A2 is capable of a 70-ton, single-line recovery, allowing the HERCULES to provide recovery of the 70-ton M1A2 Abrams tank.

Also, the A-frame boom and hoist winch of the M88A2 can lift 35 tons, ASC statistics show. The spade can be used to anchor the vehicle when using the main winch and for light earth moving to prepare a recovery area.

"Students also are taught how to correctly tow and recover other disabled tracked equipment such as the M113 Armored Personnel Carrier, and the M1A1 Abrams Tank," Squatrito said. "We essentially provide students with the knowledge and skills to be able to perform recovery on any type of tracked equipment in the Army's vast arsenal during this training."

Sgt. Joseph Horak with the 101st Brigade Support Battalion (BSB) at Fort Riley, Kan., said he received some great training and enjoyed being in the first edition of the course at Fort McCoy.

"I return with enough knowledge so that when my team is dispatched for a recovery, I will be able to show my Soldiers how to do it in a safe and timely manner so the mission is completed properly," Horak said.

He added, "The instructors (in this course) are all very knowledgeable. ... I learned that every lesson is handled professionally while also being engaging and exciting to learn."

The training will help Pfc. Juan Martinez, also with the 101st BSB at Fort Riley, prepare fellow Soldiers to get the training, as well.

"The skill set I am taking back will help my battle buddies get ready for this course," Martinez said. "I also know what kinds of requirements are needed for this (ASI), and I can share it with our company training NCO (noncommissioned officer)."

Sgt. 1st Class Timothy Phillips, also an instructor with the 13th, 100th and a student for this course, and Brand immediately start a one-year tour at RTS-Maintenance in support of teaching this course as well as others for fiscal year 2018, Squatrito said.

Phillips said he's ready. "I now have the knowledge to instruct this course, too," he said.

Squatrito said the two other sessions of this 18-day course will include 12 students in each class. He said having this additional course also brings an added dimension to RTS-Maintenance's training capability.

"This course opens our school house up to more Army maintainers because it caters to the tracked vehicle military occupational specialties," Squatrito said. "The course also fully supports the One Army School System as several of our students for this specific course are coming from active duty as well as the Army National Guard. Plus, this greatly broadens the scope of equipment and capabilities that we teach here as we now have a new fleet of tracked equipment."

RTS-Maintenance at Fort McCoy trains Soldiers from both active- and reserve-component forces.

Fort McCoy has supported America's armed forces since 1909. The installation's motto is to be the "Total Force Training Center." 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.

Today, Fort McCoy has become the Army's premier Total Force Training Center for Army Early Response Force early deployers to meet the Army's operational demand requirements. Learn more about Fort McCoy online at www.mccoy.army.mil, on Facebook by searching "ftmccoy," and on Twitter by searching "usagmccoy."