FORT MCCOY, Wisc. -- There's an old saying in the military, "If it ain't raining, we ain't training," and that phrase has certainly held true for more than 150 Army Reserve Soldiers here who over the course of the past two-weeks have been faced with more than their share of rain as well as howling wind, snow, sleet, dangerous icy roadways and muddy conditions.
The group of Soldiers are from the 379th Chemical Company, 472nd Chemical Battalion, 209th Regional Support Group, 76th Operational Response Command, based out of Chicago, Illinois, and they are spending nearly three-weeks here conducting a variety of training as they prepare themselves and their unit to deploy to the middle-east in a few months.
"This is our culminating training exercise for pre-deployment validation at the company and platoon levels," said. Capt. Andrew Deal, company commander and native of Urbana, Illinois, 379th Chem. Co. "The training here includes all of our mission-essential task lists, as well as convoy operations, counter improvised, explosive devises (IED), and our protect and defend skills for our base of operations."
Deal said this training exercise is important for several reasons. "Primarily it's important because this helps prepare us for our mission overseas if we are called upon," he said. "Secondly, we've recently had a lot of Soldiers from other units join us, and this is the first opportunity we've had to train together as a team and build essential unit cohesiveness."
Building unit cohesion is just one of the goals Deal has for his unit during their time here. "We have to get the unit validated and knock out all of our pre-deployment requirements while we are here," said Deal. "In addition to that, I want our squad leaders and platoon leaders to take charge and feel empowered, and I want everyone to operate here just like they would do in a real world environment."
In order to accomplish those goals, the company has conducted a variety of training since their arrival, including convoy operations, chemical reconnaissance and decontamination operations, and even entry-control point operations which included vehicle and personnel searches as well as detainee operations.
Despite the long hours and challenging training conditions, Deal said the exercise has already been very beneficial. "We're not only getting valuable training here on what we do as a chemical company, but we are also getting essential training on tactics and operating in a hostile environment," he said. "Training on those skills, refining them and developing standard operating procedures as we move forward is not only valuable, it's essential."
The Soldiers seem to agree. "I think we are getting good training here even though the weather conditions have been bad," said Staff Sgt. Christian Alcantara, squad leader and native of Las Vegas, Nevada, assigned to 3rd Squad, 2nd Platoon, 379th Chem. Co. "I think the conditions actually make the training better, because Soldiers have to learn to push themselves harder to get the mission done. So far, everyone is performing well and ensuring the task they are assigned gets done."
One of those Soldiers is Spc. Alexander Elliott, a chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) specialist and native of West Lafayette, Indiana, assigned to 2nd Platoon, 379th Chem. Co. "Adapting to the ever-changing environment here has been a big challenge," he said. "Between the snow, rain, freezing temperatures and muddy conditions, it's been like getting a new training environment here each day. It's good though because it helps us learn to adapt and know that we can operate in anything. I'm just excited to use the skills the Army gave me."
As the unit spends its final few days training here, Deal carefully analyzes every mission assignment and keeps his eye on every last detail to ensure his Soldiers have the skills and training they need to be successful going forward.
"Overall, I think this unit is ready to deploy," he said. "The Soldiers have made great improvements in their skillsets since arriving here and they have shown that they can be autonomous. They are learning and adjusting to different stressful situations and are able to accomplish any mission they are given. I think we have the right people. I think they are motivated and excited to deploy and I'm excited to deploy with them. They have shown that they can operate successfully here under less than favorable conditions, so I feel confident that they can definitely accomplish the mission ahead of us when we deploy."