Fort McCoy, Wis. - The 303rd Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, 9th Mission Support Command, traveled from the middle of the Pacific Ocean to the top of the Mississippi River for its annual training event, Operation Compass Shield 2013, held July 12-Aug. 2.

The warrior exercise (WAREX) provided realistic battle-scenario training, included key leader engagements, convoy operations, improvised explosive device response, detainee operations, real-world engineering projects and running a tactical operations center.

Soldiers of the 871st Engineer Company (Hilo and Maui), 63rd Bde. Spt. Battalion (Las Vegas), 829th Signal Co. (Oahu) and 302nd Quartermaster Co. from Guam and Saipan, also participated in the exercise.

At the conclusion of the exercise, 303rd MEB achieved its primary goal, initial operating capability. Col. Colbert Low, commander, said that meeting initial operating capability means that the brigade would then be able have command and control of other battalions on the battlefield, such as military police, engineering and chemical battalions.

"This is the first time that this headquarters has been able to command and control all of those elements on the ground," said Low. "It is a great experience for our Soldiers because we are learning something every day."

This annual training was the first consolidated annual training for the 303rd. There were other firsts and milestones, but initial operating capability is what made the leadership proud.

Lt. Col. Frank Hopkins, deputy commander, shared his perspective as a newcomer to the organization.

"The brigade was created roughly two years ago and is beginning to stand on its feet, so there was a process of getting the equipment, getting the Soldiers and then getting them trained," said Hopkins. "This exercise was our first shake-down that got us out and moving, and we are looking real good. I would say that we have surpassed initial operating capability."

Hopkins said that this WAREX instilled a level of confidence in the brigade that would allow it to go on to any battlefield and accomplish all that is required of a maneuver enhancement brigade.

"From a civil affairs perspective, this warrior exercise taught our Soldiers how important the host nation relationship can be to the overall mission in gaining the trust (of the local people) -- and how things can turn around quickly if we are not engaging them properly," said Maj. Robert Vandertuin, civil affairs officer.

303rd MEB is already looking forward to next year and the goal of full operational capability.