From early January to early February, more than 1,200 Marines participating in the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing's Ullr Shield exercise accessed training venues across Fort McCoy and experienced some of the coldest weather Wisconsin could throw at them.
The Marines trained at areas such as the Combined Arms Collective Training Facility (CACTF), Young Air Assault Strip, Sparta-Fort McCoy Airport, Leadership Reaction Course, Confidence Course, Improved Tactical Training Base Freedom, numerous live-fire ranges, and more. And during all the time they trained, temperatures dipped as low as minus-15 degrees and snow fell on several different days.
"Their successful training here once again validates Fort McCoy's joint national training center capability," said Training Coordination Branch Chief Craig Meeusen with the Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security (DPTMS).
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, Meeusen said. Now that the exercise is wrapping up, he said it appears they achieved many of their training goals.
"This has been the largest Marine Corps winter training exercise that we've had in years, and it has been a great cooperative training effort by everyone involved," Meeusen said.
One of the biggest training events that took place involved the training held with the Marine Corps aircraft of the 2nd MAW, such as the VMM-266 Osprey, UH-1Y Venom helicopter, and CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter.
On Jan. 19, VMM-266 Osprey aircraft and aircrews from the 2nd MAW's Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron-266 held a familiarization flight over Fort McCoy and conducted live-fire tail gunnery training.
In a released video made by Staff Sgt. Kowshon Ye of the 2nd MAW Public Affairs team, Capt. George Carpenter with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron-266 explained that tail gunnery is one of the core mission-essential tasks for an Osprey and that training in the cold and snow presented some extra challenges.
"The snow kind of brings its own dangers in the environment," Carpenter said. "For example, there's no contrast between the ground and the snow you are blowing up so a whiteout situation is a lot more difficult to land in."
Marines with the 2nd MAW's Marine Air Control Group (MACG) 28 also challenged themselves to a frigid workout Jan. 19 by conducting training at the Confidence Course on the Fort McCoy cantonment area. Ye captured the training in another video and in it, Capt. Keff Brown, an officer with MACG 28, said it was a challenging event for them.
"The confidence course helps Marines build confidence by going over high obstacles," Brown said in the video. "It takes a little bit of endurance and mobility. ... The snow and ice did not impede them at all. ... The camaraderie, teamwork, and leadership (of the Marines) all showed through (as well)."
Cpl. Joseph Betts with Marine Tactical Air Command Squadron 28 was also featured in Ye's Confidence Course video. The Marine described his experience.
"There is snow and ice, so you have to be careful everywhere," Betts said. "You have to use your head more when going over those obstacles so you don't slip and fall. We pushed each other to see who could go through the quickest. And we looked out for each other (for safety) because that's what Marines do."
The Marines also conducted a chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear defense drill and urban operations training at the CACTF. At Range 2 and at many other live-fire ranges, the Marines trained on the M2 .50-caliber machine, the M4 rifle, and more.
They also practiced carrying rucksacks while snowshoeing and skiing, and dozens also practiced cold-water immersion training in the icy waters of Big Sandy Lake on South Post.
Capt. Andrew Fabre with MACG 28 participated in the Cold-Weather Operations Course (CWOC) at Fort McCoy in December and came back in January for Ullr Shield. He said Fort McCoy is a great place for the cold-weather training they wanted to accomplish.
"Fort McCoy is a top-notch training facility and base," Fabre said. "Our mission cannot be completed without our Marines operating at a high level. (The CWOC and other cold-weather) training allows us to prepare for any environment with cold extremes, which also allows us to remain focused on the threat and the mission instead of the environment."
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."