By Scott T. Sturkol, Fort McCoy Public Affairs August 11, 2014
FORT MCCOY, Wis. -- As many as 4,000 Soldiers and support personnel are at Fort McCoy participating in the Exportable Combat Training Capability (XCTC) rotation, which began July 25 and runs through Aug. 16.
The Army National Guard's XCTC program provides participants with an experience similar to an Army combat training center (CTC) at home station or at a regional training center such as Fort McCoy. It also minimizes cost and time away from home and jobs for Guard personnel.
The XCTC exercise is designed to provide a "world-class training event" to achieve platoon-level proficiency for brigade combat teams prior to entering a CTC as well as company-level proficiency for units prior to entering the Army's available force pool in the Army Force Generation Cycle.
Mike Homer is from SRI International of Menlo Park, Calif. -- the company coordinating the exercise. He said the training Soldiers experience in the exercise was developed nearly a year ago when they met with unit leadership.
"We assist the brigade in resourcing their training plan developed from the unit's training objectives," Homer said.
Chief Warrant Officer 4 Jeffrey Lee, deputy S-1 officer from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division (2nd, 34th) of the Iowa Army National Guard at Boone, said XCTC is preparing their brigade forces for a Joint Readiness Training Center rotation assignment they'll receive within the next year.
"This exercise really validates platoon-level training and tasks and gets us ready," said Lee, who noted participating units previously had focused on squad-level training and practices during annual training.
The seven battalions participating in XCTC 2014 are the 334th Brigade Support Battalion; 1st Battalion, 194th Field Artillery Regiment; 1st Battalion, 133rd Infantry Regiment (IR); 1st Battalion, 168th IR; 1st Squadron, 113th Cavalry Regiment (CR); 2nd Battalion, 135th IR; and the 5th Squadron, 4th CR (5th, 4th). The 5th, 4th, is an active-duty unit from the 1st Infantry Division, Fort Riley, Kan., and is serving as the opposing force for the exercise.
"This exercise has a large cross-section of Army forces," Lee said. "It's a Total Force effort."
Homer said the exercise features a variety of scenarios and training environments designed to test the Soldiers. The exercise venues are located throughout the Fort McCoy range complex, to include large maneuver areas on North and South Post.
Soldiers participating in XCTC concentrated on three major objectives -- exercise planning and control, integrated instrumentation and battlefield immersion with realistic battlefield effects. It's an exercise that combined aviation assets with ground forces in a decisive action training environment to provide the most-realistic training possible, Homer said.
"We worked throughout the year to plan this exercise through planning conferences, teleconferences and more," Homer said. "There is a lot to getting this all set up. The XCTC program synchronizes all the pieces and parts to make it all happen."
XCTC participants also use the latest in Multiple Integrated Laser Engagement System gear and Flextrain instrumentation technology that allow exercise leaders to assess what's taking place in each scenario. The exercise operations area, for example, features a full, live display of unit movement operations.
The exercise also has a full complement of civilian role players simulating a specific area of the world, and constant pressure from the opposing forces of the 5th, 4th CR.
"Our opposing forces wear different uniforms, and we provide them with real AK-47s that use blank ammunition," Homer said. "There is a lot of realism to what happens in the exercise."
All scenario actions are recorded on video and audio and are tracked by GPS. Homer said the technology helps to prepare detailed, instrumented after-action reviews (I-AARs) that help units improve their Soldiers' skills prior to a real-world deployment.
Many I-AARs will be conducted throughout the course of the exercise.
"What's nice is at the end, we can take a stack of (video) I-AARs on discs and provide that to the unit, so they can review and keep their training fresh prior to their future training events like JRTC," Homer said.
Lee said he believes all Soldiers gain a lot of experience from participating in XCTC.
"In this exercise, Soldiers get realistic training," Lee said. "It could be Soldiers practicing their water purification skills while training near Big Sandy Lake, or it could be the infantryman building on his skills in one of the lanes set up for convoy operations. It all helps them master their skills."