By W. Wayne MarlowApril 5, 2017
FORT McCOY, Wis. -- Traditionally, annual training for most Soldiers of Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, First Army United States Army Reserve Support Command, is spent in
First Army headquarters supporting the directorates.
But from March 27 through April 2, members of the unit traveled to Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, for Operation Paramount, developing their skills in first aid, rollover drills, convoy operations, weapons qualification, and other warrior tasks.
Playing a large role in putting Operation Paramount together was Sgt. 1st Class Michael Fearing, the unit's training noncommissioned officer.
"My goal was first-time 'gos' for every Solider," he said. "We may have three or four that need remedial training, but at the end of the day, everyone will have a go."
Soldiers have considered the training worthwhile, Fearing added. "I've gotten some decent feedback. I'm told they like the variety, and it seems good the way we are building up to the events. For example, we did convoy training the night before we went to the simulator, and that made the next day's task more manageable for them."
There was a lot of training to squeeze into five days on ground, but that steady pace is another plus, according to Fearing.
"There hasn't been much sitting around or busy work or a dog-and-pony show," he said. "This has been a really good training event. It's running smoothly, and having a training schedule has been key. Everyone knows where to be and when, as well as what the focus will be. It also allows them to see how this is a cumulative process that builds on itself."
For Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Keibler, a human resources NCO, the chance to get back to the rifle range was the best of many good elements of the annual training.
"My favorite part was being able to get familiarization with the weapons. I haven't done that in several years. And they did a good job of walking us through the process," she said. "I definitely enjoyed that and being back in the field. For seven days, I feel that we did so much. Every day we were going nonstop, and we were able to practice skills we hadn't worked on in a while."
Besides the training, Keibler also enjoyed getting better acquainted with others in the unit.
"Being in the barracks with the Soldiers I don't get to talk to on a regular basis, being in the van, going to chow, just the little things, it builds camaraderie and esprit de corps," she said. "We weren't in cliques; everyone tried to get to know everybody else."
Like Keilber, Pfc. Trevor Smith, human resources specialist, enjoyed weapons qualification the most. Of the training in general, he said, "I thought it was well-planned. We stuck to the schedule, and the training is something we can use in theater, especially considering we don't know what could happen. Looking back at the medical training, you don't know if you're going to have a medic with you all the time, so it's good to have the skills yourself."
Capt. Thomas Fullerton echoed the sentiments about weapons firing and camaraderie.
"The range was a lot of fun," he said. "I also enjoyed the bonding component. Outside of that, I thought the simulated rifle training the day before the range was a good exercise. It provided us a good platform for coming to the range, and it made things run more smoothly while we're out here."
Fullerton also welcomed the rare chance to participate in convoy operations.
"In my capacity as a JAG officer, I don't do a lot of convoys or get a lot of training on convoy operations. I thought that Master Sgt. (Dale) Frahm's classroom instruction on the topic was excellent. He was very well-prepared and obviously has a lot of experience, and that was a great precursor to the convoy simulation."
Another plus for Fullerton was how the Soldiers operated as a team. "Everyone has worked together very well," he said. "There haven't been any arguments. People are respectful. We're fortunate to have a good group here, and it's made things easier with the living situation."
This is the first time the unit has conducted this type of training for an extended period, and it could lead to similar events in the future.
"We have a lot to build on from this," Fearing said. "I think the next one I'm going to plan is an FTX with some paintball so we can use some of the techniques we've learned here and implement them in that. I'm also hoping to focus more on driving military vehicles. Being a motor sergeant previously, I know the importance of it, and we're hoping to bring a couple of drivers in from other units to help train us."