From experiencing snowshoeing for the first time to taking the plunge during cold-water immersion training, dozens of students who attended Fort McCoy Cold-Weather Operations Course Classes 18-05 and 18-06 in March say the training was challenging and an excellent skills builder.

"I gained a better understanding on how to use cold-weather gear and equipment," said Class 18-05 student Sgt. Philip Van Brocklin with Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 127th Infantry of the Wisconsin Army National Guard. "Also, the instructors are extremely knowledgeable in all aspects of the course and were able to answer almost every question I asked."

Master Sgt. Arnold Viljevac with the 157th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, also a CWOC Class 18-05 student, said all of the course was a good training experience.

"I really enjoyed the survival aspect of the training," Viljevac said. "Learning about fire starting, building different shelters, and the cold-water (immersion) were all helpful. These are things we as Soldiers should know."

Students in both classes experienced the full gamut of cold-weather operations training. During training, students learn about skiing and snowshoe training as well as how to use ahkio sleds and the Arctic 10-person cold-weather tent, said Course Instructor Joe Ernst. 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.

"This was the first time I received training where I was shown how to properly wear our cold-weather gear," said Staff Sgt. Joshua Carlisle, a CWOC Class 18-05 student with Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 128th Infantry of the Wisconsin Army National Guard. "And making improvised shelters, to me, was the best part of this course."

Staff Sgt. Jesse Haney, a Class 18-06 student with Charlie Company of the 128th Infantry, said it will be good to pass on the knowledge he learned to fellow Soldiers.

"I would love to do a winter annual training like this with the whole unit and apply the training at the unit level," Haney said. "Learning about the Arctic tents, heaters, stoves, and cold-weather rations also are among the best parts of this course."

Building skills to survive and operate in the cold weather is at the core of the training, said Instructor Bill Hamilton. Most of the best learning takes place in the field.

"I really enjoyed the field and practical exercises," said Staff Sgt. Thomas Van Buren, a Class 18-06 student with Charlie Company of the 128th. "I enjoy being out in the elements verifying that Army-issued gear works and practicing the skills I learned in the classroom.

"The course also gave me some great basic field craft skills that can be used at any time of the year," Van Buren said. "They will be skills that I can share when my unit is out in the field training."

For most of the students, being able to share their gained knowledge with others will be the best result of the training.

"I will bring back to my unit the information about cold-weather injuries and how to treat them," said Sgt. Amy Forseth with the Wisconsin Army National Guard's 829th Engineer Company. "I will also conduct training on the proper wear of the (Army's) Extended Cold Weather Clothing System and other cold-weather gear and on fire starting, snowshoeing, and winter tactical movements."

With the completion of Classes 18-05 and 18-06, more than 230 students graduated from the course during the 2017-18 CWOC season, Hamilton said. Overall, more than 400 service members -Marines, Sailors, and Soldiers - received some type of cold-weather operations training from the staff.

The next sessions of CWOC will begin in December.

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.

Learn more about Fort McCoy online at www.mccoy.army.mil, on Facebook by searching "ftmccoy," and on Twitter by searching "usagmccoy."