Nearly 1,200 Marines with units associated with the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing are completing extreme cold-weather training at Fort McCoy from early January through early February during the Ullr Shield 2018 exercise.
The 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (MAW), headquartered at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Cherry Point, N.C., began coordination to hold the cold-weather training at Fort McCoy in September 2017.
Marines with the Marine Air Control Group 28, a 2nd MAW unit, came to Fort McCoy with an advance team in fall 2017 to prepare for training, said Training Coordination Branch Chief Craig Meeusen with the Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security (DPTMS).
"They are training all around the post," Meeusen said. "The majority of the Marines are staying and working from Improved Tactical Training Base Freedom on South Post. They are also working and training at areas such as Young Air Assault Strip, Sparta-McCoy Airfield, the Combined Arms Collective Training Facility, and various live fire ranges."
Prior to the start of Ullr Shield, nearly 50 Marines came to Fort McCoy to train in the Cold-Weather Operations Course, or CWOC, in December. All of those same Marines returned to Fort McCoy for the Ullr Shield exercise to help train their fellow Marines.
Sgt. Luis Lopez with Marine Wing Communications Squadron 28, also at MCAS Cherry Point, said after completing CWOC training that he would carry skills he learned to train other Marines.
"I will share the knowledge on how to wear the (cold-weather) equipment, the tips and tricks to stay warm, and how to react to and treat cold-weather injuries," Lopez said. "Also, the best parts of the course, to me, were all of the survival tips. They were all a first to me, and I learned a lot from the course.
The CWOC is modeled on the Cold-Weather Leader Course taught by the Army Northern Warfare Training Center (NWTC) at Black Rapids, Alaska, said Course Instructor Bill Hamilton, who works for contractor Veterans Range Solutions, which supports DPTMS. The course curriculum is meant to challenge students at every turn.
Some of the tasks taught during the course include cold-weather injury identification and treatment, proper ways to wear cold-weather clothing, cold-weather risk management, snowshoeing and skiing, and adverse effects of cold weather on military equipment, Hamilton said. Training also includes developing winter fighting positions in the field, camouflage and concealment, building improvised shelters, and numerous other areas that are important to know in order to survive and operate in a cold-weather environment.
"These are all skills these Marines from the first CWOC class for this winter are sharing with other Marines in the Ullr Shield exercise," Hamilton said.
Gunnery Sgt. David Fuller with Marine Air Support Squadron 1, also at Cherry Point, said CWOC and cold-weather training like that at Ullr Shield help Marines think differently about their deployed environment.
"This is learning to think outside the box with the knowledge and skills required to successfully conduct cold-weather operations," Fuller said.
The December training was the first cold-weather training that Staff Sgt. Tyler Sheets with Marine Wing Communications Squadron 274, also at MCAS Cherry Point, ever participated in. He said he built his confidence to survive in a cold-weather environment and went forward with the same confidence to teach Marines in Ullr Shield.
"I feel very confident in my abilities ... to be able to instruct other Marines on how to be able to survive if they are ever in a (cold-weather) situation," Sheets said.
More Marines with 2nd MAW units are attending CWOC training in late January and February as well, Hamilton said. "Three of our six classes planned for CWOC this winter are filled with Marines as students," he said.
The CWOC cadre also has helped Marines attending the Ullr Shield exercise to gather cold-weather training equipment, participate in field events, and train with Army CWOC students for cold-water immersion training.
The mission of the 2nd MAW is to conduct air operations in support of the Fleet Marine Force to include offensive air support, anti-air warfare, assault support, aerial reconnaissance, electronic warfare, and control of aircraft and missiles, according to the wing's mission statement.
"This has been the largest Marine Corps winter training exercise that we've had in years," Meeusen said, highlighting Fort McCoy's motto as a "Total Force Training Center." "This has been a great cooperative training effort by everyone involved."
Fort McCoy has supported America's armed forces since 1909. 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."