Hundreds of Army Reserve Soldiers are completing training as members of Convoy Protection Platform gunnery crews during Operation Cold Steel III between late March and early May at Fort McCoy.
Operation Cold Steel (OCS) III, operating under Task Force Fortnite at Fort McCoy, is a gunnery exercise with Soldiers qualifying on the M2, MK-19, and M240B weapon systems. According to the Army Reserve, the training completed during Operation Cold Steel is critical to ensuring that Army Reserve units and Soldiers are trained and ready to deploy on short notice and bring "combat-ready and lethal firepower in support of Army and Joint Force partners around the world."
Task Force Fortnite Commander Lt. Col. Greg Derner said training began March 22 with approximately 230 personnel from across the Army Reserve serving as cadre to train the hundreds of Soldiers completing eight-day training sessions for the exercise.
"Weather and lack of snow have definitely helped our training success," Derner said. "Also, our cadre are a very experienced group. We have some who have worked with Cold Steel in the past, and they are a very diverse group."
Several years ago, the Army Reserve identified its "Ready Force" as Soldiers tasked with maintaining higher levels of peacetime readiness to meet the needs of the Army and the nation, according to a "Stand-to" article about Operation Cold Steel from May 2017 at https://www.army.mil/standto/2017-05-09.
"The vast majority of Soldiers participating in this exercise are part of this rapid response force and (have) their combat readiness at Operation Cold Steel evaluated against Objective T standards, the Army's new measure of readiness," the article states. "In accordance with these standards, all units (are) required to conduct annual crew-served and platform qualifications in order to meet readiness objectives."
The three-person gunnery crews complete their training in what Derner and his team called a fine-tuned training effort. Originally, when Cold Steel started in 2017, a gunnery crew could be in training for up to 13 days. Through feedback and refinement, that training has been brought down to eight days, which in turn allows for more crews to be trained more efficiently.
Sgt. Maj. Kevin A. Timmons, Operation Cold Steel III Task Force Fortnite senior enlisted adviser, said the training helps create leaders in the enlisted corps.
"This has been great training, especially from the aspect that it is (noncommissioned officer)-driven, and it fits with what (Lt. Gen. Charles D.) Luckey (chief of Army Reserve and commanding general, U.S. Army Reserve Command) wanted from this training," Timmons said.
Crews train day and night for Cold Steel using several Fort McCoy live-fire ranges. Derner said the installation has worked well for the training effort.
"The ranges themselves are the best equipped, technologically, in the Army Reserve," Derner said. "Of the locations where they have conducted Cold Steel, McCoy is the best. ... Overall the installation is well set up to do this."
Maj. Benjamin Nonaka, Operation Cold Steel III Task Force Fortnite executive officer, said Fort McCoy's geographic footprint aids in streamlining training. At many other places where Cold Steel training has been completed, he said the distance to training ranges is longer.
"Fort McCoy is much more compact, and it reduces the amount of time and logistical requirements for us," Nonaka said.
Timmons added, "What I have noticed, also, ... is the audio and video technology here is very advanced." He said this especially helps with immediate after-action reviews (AARs).
"When (crews) review the training in AARs after they come off the ranges, they can review what they've done quickly. That is very important," Timmons said.
Derner also said his team with Task Force Fortnite will continue to refine the eight-day training model they are currently working with for Cold Steel.
"We've already made adjustments to this training in the feedback we've received so far," Derner said.
In the 2017 Stand-to story, Army Reserve leaders said Operation Cold Steel has enhanced the Reserve's ability to achieve the Army's No. 1 priority: readiness.
"Continued exercises will ensure America's Army Reserve remains the most capable, combat-ready, and lethal federal reserve force in the history of the nation," the article states.
Located in the heart of the upper Midwest, Fort McCoy is the only U.S. Army installation in Wisconsin. The installation has provided support and facilities for the field and classroom training of more than 100,000 military personnel from all services each year since 1984.
Learn more about Fort McCoy online at https://home.army.mil/mccoy, on Facebook by searching "ftmccoy," and on Twitter by searching "usagmccoy."