By Spc. Jeremiah WoodsApril 19, 2017
FORT MCCOY, Wis. -- In April, Fort McCoy came alive with the movement of an estimated 1,800 Army Reserve Soldiers from approximately 60 Army Reserve units across the country as they converged on the small post in a rural part of the state to participate in an extensive field-training exercise.
The mission was the U.S. Army Reserve Command's inaugural Operation Cold Steel, hosted by the 84th Training Command. The purpose of Operation Cold Steel was to create a more deployable, combat-ready and lethal fighting force within the Army Reserve by training and qualifying participating units on the crew-served weapons within the Army arsenal.
"Operation Cold Steel is the U.S. Army Reserve's largest and first centrally run crew-served weapons and platform qualification and validation exercise," said Lt. Gen. Charles D. Luckey, chief of Army Reserve and commanding general of the United States Army Reserve Command.
"The vast majority of Soldiers participating in this exercise are part of the Army Reserve's Ready Force, tasked with maintaining higher levels of peacetime readiness to offset risk to the nation," he added.
More than 450 weapons crews were trained and certified over the seven-week duration of Operation Cold Steel. This exercise executed crew-served weapons platform qualifications through multiple 12-day rotations, with Soldiers qualifying on M2, M19, and M240B weapons systems, according to Luckey.
With just a fraction of the Army Reserve force represented at Operation Cold Steel, one of the main goals was to produce a trained force that, upon returning to their home station, will possess the knowledge and skill sets to train additional Soldiers and bolster the fighting force across the entire Army Reserve.
"Operation Cold Steel enhances our ability to achieve the Army's No. 1 priority -- readiness," Luckey said. "The demonstrated leadership, energy and execution of our Soldiers will ensure America's Army Reserve remains the most capable, combat-ready, and lethal federal reserve force in the history of the nation."
Upon arrival at Fort McCoy, each Soldier was placed into a weapons crew and assigned the crew-served weapon system they would train on and ultimately qualify with at the end of their training mission.
Capt. Rob Brem from the 331st Combat Support Battalion, based in Grand Prairie, Texas, and cadre for Operation Cold Steel working in the tactical operation center, explained the idea was to have crews who may otherwise not have the opportunity to receive this kind of training at their home station come to Fort McCoy, where everything was set up on the ranges, to get qualified.
"The first day of training is eight to 10 hours of just getting familiar with the weapon," said Army Reserve Spc. Adam Paquet, a petroleum and supply specialist with the 277th Quartermaster Company from Niagara Falls, New York. "How it works, what it does, how to take it apart, clean it and put it back together and how to troubleshoot a misfire. It is basically two week's worth of training in eight hours -- just to get us ready to fire the weapon."
During the exercise, Paquet was assigned as an MK19 40 mm grenade launcher gunner. He said getting trained and qualified with the weapon systems will ensure that he and his unit are that much more prepared.
"It helps the unit become capable and lethal and deployable," he said.
Additionally, cadre and instructors for Operation Cold Steel received valuable training to pass on to the course's participants the essential tools and practical experience they need to complete the mission at Fort McCoy and ultimately maintain those skills in their home units.
"Vehicle crew evaluators, master gunners and range personnel have been trained and embedded in our forces so that operational and functional commands can conduct follow-on live-fire exercises and platform gunnery to meet future requirements," Luckey said.
"Operation Cold Steel will make them a better Soldier because the information that they get here as a crew they can take back to their own units and spin their units up," said Staff Sgt. Patrick Anthony, a construction engineer supervisor with the 633rd Quartermaster Battalion, and a primary marksmanship instruction instructor at Operation Cold Steel.
"If those Soldiers move on to another unit, they have the information and the knowledge to pass on to them," he said. "So that way, when they get to an active duty deployment, they'll know what to do, they can get spun up. If they just get dropped into a combat unit, they'll be ready to go."
From a command perspective, Operation Cold Steel was designed to bring the Army Reserve units to a level of readiness to respond to the global threats of the 21st century. Nine operational and functional commands were represented at Fort McCoy during the operation, stretching from California to Puerto Rico.
"Ready Force units are missioned to respond to evolving global threats from quick-striking adversaries," Luckey said. "Our joint force must be able to simultaneously wage high-end conventional warfare, protect the homeland and continue to engage in a global counterterrorism campaign in cooperation with our allies and partners -- all while concurrently improving upon our ability to respond to emerging 21st-century threats."
"It's really important that they sustain that level of proficiency because everything that they can do here keeps our readiness level up," said Brig. Gen. Alberto Rosende, commanding general of the 1st Mission Support Command at Fort Buchanan, Puerto Rico. "What we want to be able to do with all of the expertise that we're building within the crews that are here is take that back to the 1st MSC so that we can train all of our units across the command."
Rosende said it's important for Army Reserve Soldiers to capture as much as they can from Operation Cold Steel so they can turn that knowledge into solutions. In order for them to be able to adapt, they must continue to draw on the skills they learn to train all the units across the command.
"There is huge, unprecedented level of learning happening at Fort McCoy," Luckey said. "If you could see the looks on the Soldiers' faces, you'd know what I mean. Cold Steel, this is the future, who we are, what we're about -- America's Army Reserve, generating readiness and lethality."