More than 20 students in the Fort McCoy Cold-Weather Operations Course Class 21-02 trained in using a loaded ahkio sleds while snowshoeing and in practicing skiing during class training in early January at Whitetail Ridge Ski Area. Their training was similar to hundreds of students who trained before them in the course.Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security (DPTMS) Warehouse Supervisor Scott Huber, who manages the warehouse in building 495, said Fort McCoy’s cold-weather training equipment inventory includes many ahkio sleds, and they are an important piece of equipment used in the course.An ahkio is a traditional, reindeer-pulled sled of the Lapland people of Finland and is used for many purposes, including cold-weather expeditions, history shows.“For our training package, the sleds are used to carry the tent, stove, fuel, and other equipment troops would need to go out to a site and set up a living and operations area,” Huber said. “The ahkio sleds are a critical transportation piece for the whole training package.”Since CWOC started at Fort McCoy several years ago, hundreds of students have trained using the sleds. And while pulling those sleds, the students are usually wearing snowshoes, said CWOC Instructor Hunter Heard, who coordinates training with fellow instructors Manny Ortiz, Brian Semann, and Joe Ernst. All are with contractor Veterans Range Solutions, which works with Fort McCoy’s Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization, and Security to complete the training.Also during CWOC, students receive approximately 16 hours of training in skiing — one of the longest lengths of training time allotted for a skill set in the course.The skiing training is completed at Fort McCoy’s Whitetail Ridge Ski Area in the Pine View Recreation Area. The ski area offers plenty of snow to complete the lessons, is quickly accessible, and is well maintained, Ernst said. Also, he said the ability to ski is critical for students.“Skiing is a primary method of travel in an extreme cold-weather environment,” Ernst said. “We teach our students to do this by utilizing currently issued equipment and through a step-by-step approach.”The first eight hours the students train on skis is learning how the equipment works and how to move on the skis, Ernst said. The second day of training is about the students learning how to build the basic skills they learned on the first day.“We get a lot of students — I would say the majority of our students — who have never skied before,” Ernst said. “So, essentially, when they come here, they are starting from scratch. By the end of the skiing training, I would say on average that at least 90 percent of the students, maybe more, are competent in using the equipment.”Heard said teaching over-the-snow movement techniques like snowshoeing and skiing are vital.“Those are both part of the skill set we teach at CWOC,” Heard said. “Moving through snow-covered terrain can be detrimental to units who are unprepared. Being able to efficiently move through the snow could be the difference in mission success instead of failure.”Training in the course 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.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 nerarly every year since 1984.Learn more about Fort McCoy online at, on Facebook by searching “ftmccoy,” and on Twitter by searching “usagmccoy.