Nineteen Soldiers and ROTC cadets trained in cold temperatures and more to graduate from Fort McCoy Cold-Weather Operations Course (CWOC) Class 21-01 in mid-December after 14 days of training.“Our first class of the 2020-21 training season had a great mixture of active-duty Soldiers, Reservists, and a few ROTC cadets, as well,” 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.“Even though we were unable to ski and snowshoe due to no snow, this was still a really great course session,” Heard said. “We were able to get some good fieldcraft training with the students out in the training areas. And even with the COVID-19 precautions in place, the students performed well and kept their motivation high. All in all, it was a great start to our training season.”Despite the lack of snow, students completed nearly 40 kilometers of marches during training, Heard said. They also learned how to pack and use ahkio sleds to carry and move gear, and they practiced extensively in building the Arctic 10-person cold-weather tent as well as improvised shelters.Cpl. Nicholas Lauterbach, team leader with the 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment at Fort Carson, Colo., said he especially liked learning how to build improvised thermal shelters and the cold-water immersion training.“All the (fieldcraft) training leading up to field training was great,” Lauterbach said. He added that learning more about the Army’s Extended Cold-Weather Clothing System (ECWCS).“This course taught me how to properly wear my ECWCS gear and the sleep system that goes with it,” Lauterbach said. “This will help me to train my troops in my unit on the correct way to use the system.”Course objectives also include focusing on terrain and weather analysis, risk management, developing winter fighting positions, camouflage and concealment in a cold-weather environment, cold-water immersion reaction and treatment, and injury prevention.First Lt. James Wong, a civil-affairs officer with the Army Reserve’s 432nd Civil Affairs Battalion in Green Bay, Wis., said the course helped him build his cold-weather operations skills.“This course increased me familiarity with operating in a cold-weather environment … and mitigating risk with knowledge of effects from exposure, such as hypothermia,” Wong said. “One of the best things about this course is the creative freedom the course allows in solving problems in a cold environment. … Also, gaining knowledge on the effects of cold weather on the body, vehicles, and equipment will be valuable for planning considerations.”This class of students also started a second season of training in a specialized cold-water immersion scenario, Heard said. The scenario includes having one of the squad members go through a cold-water immersion event in the lake, and then other squad members have to take what they learned during the course to help the wet squad member warm up and recover. This includes having the squad member take off most outer clothing and then climb into a sled lined with dry blankets. At the same time, other squad members erect an Arctic cold-weather tent with a heater where the affected squad member then warms up and recovers to prevent injury.It’s training like the cold-water immersion scenario that helped ROTC Cadet Tyler Mertes with the Marquette University ROTC Program gain an appreciation for the course.“I learned a lot from the instructors and my peers,” Mertes said. He also enjoyed “having more freedom and flexibility” while being in the field.The new season of training also has required COVID-19 safety requirements be built in. In addition to social distancing, hand washing/sanitizing, and mask requirements, Heard said they also reduced class size. “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,” he said.CWOC training for the 2020-21 season continues until late March.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 year since 1984.Learn more about Fort McCoy online at, on Facebook by searching “ftmccoy,” and on Twitter by searching “usagmccoy.”