By Sgt. Devin WoodJuly 25, 2016
FORT MCCOY, Wis. -- In a combat theater soldiers face small arms fire and exploding ordnance attacks, but for Reserve Soldiers it can be difficult to simulate these real world threats during monthly battle assemblies.
To achieve the most realistic training possible, Reserve units teamed up with Active Army and Army National Guard units here at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin for the 84th Training Command's third and final Warrior Exercise of the year, hosted by the 86th Training Division from July 9 through 23.
During the exercise, Soldiers from the 320th Military Police Company had the opportunity to perform in a mass casualty scenario involving live role players, aviation units and combat medics.
"This environment is great," said Staff Sgt. Nikesha Cabrera, a squad leader with the 320th. "Probably half of my squad has never worked with medics or actually seen a black hawk [land]."
The 320th was one of 92 units from across the Army that honed their skills during the final WAREX, which allows units to train in tactical and combat training environments, enforces small unit leadership principals, and reinforces Army Warrior Training.
During the WAREX, the 84th Training Command set the stage with a Decisive Action Training Environment, combining virtual scenarios with real-life role players to create an intense environment designed to encompass the training audience, test them with multiple stressors, and assess them on how they react.
According to Cabrera, her Soldiers already knew how to perform basic warrior tasks like calling for a medical evacuation, but the pressure and urgency of a live scenario adds an extra layer of stress to the task and gives leadership the chance to observe how the Soldiers may react in a real life situation.
"This is the type of thing you learn in Advanced Individual Training," said Cabrera. "You're supposed to continually build on that, and if you don't, it can take a few weeks to actually relearn those things and reapply it. We'd like to think that, if it happens, you kick in to high gear and you know exactly what to do, but it doesn't always work like that."
According to Sgt. Michael Schreckengost, a team leader with the 320th MP Company, it's hard to get the level of training at home station that you can attain at a facility like Fort McCoy.
During the exercise, Observer-controller coaches instructed Soldiers and get them going in the right direction. Without interfering with the scenario, they asked the Soldiers questions about the decisions they were making and how those decisions would affect the overall mission.
"Getting them out here, living in tents and grinding and sweating and being in 'the suck', it gets them into a mindset," said Schreckengost. "(They're) away from distractions and they start zooming in and watching the (noncommissioned officers) and how things are going and they start getting engaged."
According to Cabrera, good training in the rear translates to good skills in real world practice. WAREX is designed to provide that for units that are midway in their readiness cycle.
"Exercises like this give the Soldier-Leader the confidence they need to go to war," said Col. William Woods, Commander of 2nd Brigade, 86th Training Division.