Cold-weather operations training returns to Fort McCoy in December with new instructors and hundreds of students planning to attend from the Marine Corps, Navy, and Army.
Fort McCoy will hold the first of six, 12-day sessions of the Cold-Weather Operations Course, or CWOC, on Dec. 2 with more than 50 students.
"The number of students we expect for this winter training season for CWOC is nearly quadrupled over last winter," said Course Instructor Bill Hamilton, who works for contractor Veterans Range Solutions, which supports the Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security, or DPTMS.
"We've also added three additional instructors who will help Joe (Ernst) and me meet the demand for the training."
Hamilton said the courses held during the 2016-17 winter were proof-of-principle courses and were quite successful.
"Those all went very well, and since the word got out that we teach this here, we had to expand our program to meet the interest of people wanting to be in this course," Hamilton said.
"This winter, in this course, we will have students from active-duty, Guard, and Reserve units, and they come from multiple services. We're all very much looking forward to what we have planned for this training."
The CWOC is modeled on the Cold-Weather Leader Course taught by the Army Northern Warfare Training Center (NWTC) at Black Rapids, Alaska, Hamilton said.
"Our program of instruction is nearly identical with the exception that we don't teach certain skills, such as mountaineering and related topics that are better served in mountainous areas," he said.
Students learn on a variety of cold-weather subjects, including skiing and snowshoe training as well as how to use ahkio sleds and the Arctic 10-person cold-weather tent, Ernst said. Training also focuses on terrain and weather analysis, risk management, cold-weather clothing, developing winter fighting positions in the field, camouflage and concealment, and numerous other areas that are important to know in order to survive and operate in a cold-weather environment.
"With this next course and with subsequent courses, we'll now be using all of the installation," Hamilton said. "Using the sleds and hauling all of their equipment, students will be traversing through more than 37 miles of terrain starting on North Post and ending at Big Sandy Lake on South Post.
"Our curriculum has us spending the majority of our time outdoors, where more hands-on training and instruction can take place," Hamilton said.
New course instructors include Hunter Heard, a former Army infantry noncommissioned officer (NCO); Manny Ortiz, a retired Army medic and computer specialist; and Mike Nguyen, former Marine Corps infantry NCO.
"Hunter brings us experience from his time teaching at NWTC in Alaska, and Mike adds his experience from teaching at the Marine Corps' Mountain Warfare Training Center in Bridgeport (Calif.)," Hamilton said. "Manny brings his extensive senior experience as a medic. ... Injury prevention is a big part of this course."
"I'm really looking forward to getting back to teaching and being around (service members) in a training environment once again," Heard said.
"I look forward to training and instructing our future military leaders," Nguyen said.
"I really want to share my experience and teach all the ways to prevent cold-weather injuries," Ortiz said.
"If you can prevent injuries, especially in a cold-weather environment, then the mission can continue."
After the December course is completed, Hamilton said they'll take feedback from the students to continue improve the course.
"We're doing this next course a little differently, so we expect a lot of feedback along the way," Hamilton said. "We'll always keep on refining the course and making it even better than it is."
DPTMS Director Brad Stewart said the success of the CWOC indicates there's a growing need for that type of training as the military continues planning for future operations.
"The more we talk about the CWOC as we go out to places, we are finding that more and more units want to participate or they want to send students to be a part of this course," Stewart said.
"By holding this training here, we're filling a niche that's helping prepare our warfighters for future operations that could take them to anywhere in the world."
Stewart said the CWOC also contributes to the installation's strategic goal to be that year-round Total Force Training Center.
"Fort McCoy is having a direct impact by helping service members train in a four-season climate," Stewart said. "We have the capability and capacity here to continue to grow that idea."
After the December CWOC session, the next session will begin in early January and will include a large contingent of Marines from the 2nd Marine Air Wing. Throughout all of the courses, Hamilton said Soldiers with the 181st Multi-Functional Training Brigade will also assist with the training.
"We'll be ready to teach all of them," Hamilton said.
Fort McCoy has supported America's armed forces since 1909. The installation's motto is to be the "Total Force Training Center." The post's varied terrain, state-of-the-art ranges, new as well as renovated facilities, and extensive support infrastructure combine to provide military personnel with an environment in which to develop and sustain the skills necessary for mission success.
Today, Fort McCoy has become the Army's premier Total Force Training Center for Army Early Response Force early deployers to meet the Army's operational demand requirements. Learn more about Fort McCoy online at www.mccoy.army.mil, on Facebook by searching "ftmccoy," and on Twitter by searching "usagmccoy."