When special operations Airmen with the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron of the Kentucky Air National Guard at Louisville conducted an airborne-insertion jump at Sparta-Fort McCoy Airport on July 16 during the Patriot North 2019 exercise, the action confirmed a training capability long planned for at the installation.
Three Airmen completed the jump in a scenario aimed at airport seizure that would lead to the establishment of an air hub to receive supplies by military airlift aircraft, such as the C-130 Hercules and C-17 Globemaster III.
As the training event unfolded, Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security Director Brad Stewart was nearby to watch.
"For Fort McCoy, the greatest outcome of this training was it was the first time in Fort McCoy history that anyone remembers a unit conducting airport seizure operations at our very own Sparta-Fort McCoy Airport," Stewart said. "It's another first in Fort McCoy's history among many others that have happened in the last 10-15 years."
Nearly five years ago, Stewart said, he and other members of his directorate had talked with leaders of the Army's 82nd Airborne Division about paratroopers conducting similar airport-seizure training. While the training with the 82nd has not formulated yet, the Patriot North training scenario brought the capability to fruition, Stewart said.
"Having the flexibility to offer a real training environment to conduct this mission is extremely beneficial to any military force that wants to do that," Stewart said. "We can work in collaboration with the Wisconsin Air Guard at Volk Field to also do this. That means we could possibly provide two locations in this area where a unit can train on operations on how to seize an airport and to start bringing in supplies for either stockpiling or for supporting forces already in theater."
Any time the U.S. military deploys, Stewart said, those troops have to have a location via either a sea port or airport to receive more supplies to support forces and to bring in follow-on forces.
Training scenarios featuring airfield seizure have been done at Fort McCoy's Young Air Assault Strip by special operations troops in the past, but seizing the airport area has not been done because a lot more goes into coordinating it.
"We have to issue a restricted FAA notice in order for the air space to be open to allow the paratroopers or other personnel to jump in. This action is to ensure they will not collide with something in the air," Stewart said. "Airports by nature are usually very busy, so giving troops that training opportunity is rare. But, it can be done here. They can come here to train like they fight."
Lt. Col. Ashley Nickloes, deputy exercise director for Patriot North 2019, said the exercise planning team always enjoys the capabilities that Fort McCoy provides.
"A lot of people do not realize what Fort McCoy and Volk Field bring to the area and to the Guard," she said. "(Fort McCoy) is a unique training area that allows us to have so many different training venues to train so many troops."
More airport seizure training opportunities are likely part of future training operations at the installation, Stewart said.
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."