The 2020-21 season of the Fort McCoy Cold-Weather Operations Course (CWOC) started Dec. 4 at the installation, beginning officially the fifth season of the course.This season, the CWOC training team of instructors — Hunter Heard, Joe Ernst, Manny Ortiz, and Brian Semann — is prepared to hold five, 14-day training sessions of CWOC as well as two, three-day sessions.Class dates are: class 21-01, Dec. 4-17; class 21-02, Jan. 4-17, 2021; class 21-03, Jan. 21 to Feb. 7; class 21-04, Feb. 15-28; and class 21-05, March 8-21. Dates for the three-day short courses are Jan. 22-24 and March 5-7.At the end of the 2019-2020 CWOC training season at Fort McCoy in March, the CWOC staff and students experienced the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and had to adapt and adjust training, said Heard, who works for contractor Veterans Range Solutions, which supports the Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security, or DPTMS. And since the pandemic is still going on at the start of this new season, COVID-19 safety precautions are in place for students and staff.“We are just hoping to get a full and successful training season this year while still abiding by the safety guidelines for COVID-19,” Heard said.In addition to social distancing, hand washing/sanitizing, and mask requirements, Heard said they reduced the class size from 50 students per class to 30.“We will do everything we can to ensure our students are safe,” Heard said. “Since the pandemic started, we have all learned a lot about how to increase the safety measures in our training program, and what we have in place should help us have a successful training season.”During the 2019-20 season, the CWOC training program trained dozens of Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines, and — for the first time — Airmen.“I believe we will continue to see another diverse collection of students from all the services this season,” Heard said. “As word has spread about how Fort McCoy is a great place to hold this training, we’ve had continued interest from active duty, Guard, and Reserve service members from all the military branches. CWOC training has truly become a Total Force training environment.”The CWOC is modeled after the Cold-Weather Leader Course taught by the Army Northern Warfare Training Center at Black Rapids, Alaska. During training, students learn about a wide range of cold-weather subjects, including skiing and snowshoe training, how to use ahkio sleds and the Arctic 10-person cold-weather tent, and how to build improvised shelters.For each class, students start with classroom training and then move into various aspects of field training. Ernst said some students come to the course having never been on skis or snowshoes.“It’s amazing to see how they adjust and learn throughout the training experience,” Ernst said. “Every season, our students are tested in tough conditions. And in the feedback we receive from every class, most students are appreciative of everything they have learned.”Students complete miles of ruck marching in the snow and cold during the season. Sometimes students move in snowshoes and skis covering dozens of miles. Students also complete training terrain and weather analysis, camouflage and concealment, and risk management. They also learn about properly wearing issued cold-weather clothing and how to prevent cold-weather injuries.“An important part of the training and understanding operations in the cold weather is how to identify and understand what causes cold-weather injuries,” said Ortiz, who was a combat medic in the Army. “Continuing in this year’s training, we will have training that will include scenarios on how students can respond to help a victim of hypothermia. This will help them build confidence and knowledge in understanding cold-weather injuries as well.”Semann will be working his first full season as an instructor. “I’m definitely looking forward to supporting this training,” he said.And the training should continue to help students help their own units be prepared for winter operations. Sgt. Jacob Larson, a past student in CWOC Class 20-05 with the 950th Engineer Company at Superior, Wis., completed training in March. He said he’ll be able to share what he has learned and that Fort McCoy was the right place to be for the training.“I feel like I have learned a lot of skills I can take back to teach the Soldiers on my team,” Larson said. “I can help teach the proper way to wear the Army’s cold-weather gear as well as fire-starting tricks. … Also, completing this training at Fort McCoy was excellent.”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 nearly every year since 1984.Learn more about Fort McCoy online at, on Facebook by searching “ftmccoy,” and on Twitter by searching “usagmccoy.”