By Mr. Eric Pilgrim (Fort Knox news)March 2, 2018
Now in its second phase, Operation Cold Steel II is underway at Fort Knox.
More than 2,000 Army Reserve Soldiers operating in Ready Force X units around the United States will pass through the gates of Fort Knox starting today to undergo five days of combat readiness training over the next two months.
Officials involved in the exercise said the training cycle for each group of Soldiers will be staggered to accommodate such a large amount in the timeframe they have, and to cut down on the amount of instructors needed.
"The idea behind Cold Steel … is to have a ready force Reserve unit ready to roll," said Sgt. Maj. Denise Shelton, Public Affairs senior enlisted advisor for 377th Theater Sustainment Command. "A lot of times in the way the training program is set up [for] Soldiers that are deploying, they have 30, 60, 90 days that they have to get up-to-speed to be ready to hit ground in a deployment setting."
The operation was conceptualized out of a recommendation by Lt. Gen. Charles Luckey, chief of Army Reserve and commanding general of U.S. Army Reserve Command, to get the Reservists assigned to Ready Force X units fully prepared for combat in a much shorter period of time.
The Ready Force X full spectrum approach reduces pre-and post-mobilization times so Soldiers can deploy quickly against adversaries when needed. Operation Cold Steel gets them trained for it.
"Operation Cold Steel enhances our ability to achieve the Army's number one priority -- readiness," said Luckey, in May 2017. "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."
Crew-served weapon qualification is a large part of the training. Fort Knox is uniquely qualified to handle the training on such a large scale, said Shelton: hence, why the installation was chosen to host this year's exercise.
"This is the very first exercise as far as Cold Steel that the Reserves have done and trained it in this manner," said Shelton. "We're breaking new ground."
The exercise began a month ago when more than 200 cadre members arrived at Fort Knox to receive the standards and training to be able to train the weapon systems to others. That's been completed. The cadre will now turn around and use their knowledge to train the troops.
The plan is to break the training cycles down into 59 chalks, with each chalk containing up to 60 Soldiers. Day 1 involves orientation. The Soldiers receive classroom instruction on Day 2 and 3. Day 4 will consist of live-fire qualification on the various weapon systems, to include night operations. Day 5 will culminate with a training exercise, where they put it all together. By Day 6, the Soldiers are heading home. Shelton explained that the staggered training will have chalks rolling in each day to keep the cadre training their block of instruction throughout.
Crew-served weapon qualification is an important part of this.
"A lot of times these Reservists don't train on the crew-served weapons," said Sgt. 1st Class Rhonda Seward, a Public Affairs specialist. "With this initiative, it kind of forces these units to get those weapons out of the vault."
Shelton explained that the nature of the Reserve component's one-weekend-a-month training cycles compared with the 24/7 cycles of active duty Soldiers makes regular, consistent training on weapons systems extremely difficult at best. Ready Force X attempts to eliminate that issue.
"This training allows us to go from one end to the other end of that weapon and get it to fire down range," said Shelton.
Those participating in the training have volunteered to do so, according to Shelton. Including her.
"It's phenomenal what we're doing and I see the positive potential out of this," said Shelton. "It's a pretty cool thing to be a part of."
Major Ibrahim Kabbah, Public Affairs officer for the exercise, said he looks at the training from a strategic perspective.
"Understanding the type of war we're in now, Reservists have actually stepped up and occupied spaces the active component could not possibly hold for a long period of time," said Kabbah. "Having been part of the team … I think that's what this is about -- Reserve combat readiness."