Fort the second consecutive year, Airmen made up nearly an entire class of students in the Fort McCoy Cold-Weather Operations Course, or CWOC.
During CWOC class 21-04, more than 20 Air Force students attended. Many of the Airmen came from the 164th Security Forces Squadron at Memphis Air National Guard Base, Tenn. Others came from other units, such as the 134th Security Forces Squadron of McGhee-Tyson Air National Guard Base, Tenn.; 910th Security Forces Squadron at Youngstown Air Reserve Base, Ohio; 128th Security Forces Squadron at Milwaukee; and the 118th Force Support Squadron and 118th Security Forces Squadron at Nashville.
Chief Master Sgt. Anthony Harvey, security forces manager with the 164th Mission Support Group, 164th Airlift Wing, at Memphis said the involvement by Air Force security forces Airmen in CWOC is a great opportunity.
“In the first class where the Air Force attended, I was a student,” Harvey said. “The information we received was great information, such as learning to (operate) in a cold-weather environment like Arctic or sub-Arctic weather. In this training, you learn how to properly wear the (cold-weather) uniform and use the equipment. … You’re learning how to operate in this cold environment and use snowshoes, how to use skis, how to ruck, and how to set up a base camp in these conditions.”
Harvey added that courses like CWOC are good for Air Force security forces because it also allows them to practice their core skills as “Defenders.”
“In security forces, we pride ourselves in being on the ground and operating with ground combat skills,” Harvey said.
During CWOC, students complete snowshoe and skiing training in training areas throughout the post. Overall, students completed nearly 40 kilometers of marches during training, Heard said. They also learn how to pack and use ahkio sleds to carry and move gear, and they practice extensively in building the Arctic 10-person cold-weather tent as well as improvised shelters from what’s available.
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, 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.
During the cold-water immersion training event, that is the day where students practice all the skills they learned during training in one specialized scenario. The scenario includes having one of the squad members go through a cold-water immersion event in the lake and then the squad, as a team, has to take what they learned during the course to have that affected squad member warm up and recover.
This effort includes having the squad member take off most 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 squad member would then further warm up and recover to prevent injury.
Senior Airman Cody Rager with the 118th Security Forces Squadron said the training helped him better understand the gear he would need in cold-weather operations, and he said that knowing the proper use of the gear also affects a service member’s performance with the gear in cold weather. He also said there were plenty of other skills gained from the course that he liked.
“Instruction on shelter building in creating a warm shelter with little material was particularly helpful,” Rager said. And on doing the training at Fort McCoy, Rager added, “The cold temperatures and snow make it ideal for this type of training.”
Staff Sgt. Clifton Cattron with the 164th Security Forces Squadron said he learned he can endure anything he puts his mind to because of the skills he gained from the course.
“Everything about the course was good,” Cattron said. “I can’t think of a bad part. … I will definitely take the shelter building skills back with me to help train others. Being able to build a shelter can help anyone at any time of year. … Also, the instructors definitely know their job. They made sure everyone was prepared for the experience.”
Harvey said he’s had good feedback from Airmen who have attended CWOC and knows more will attend future classes.
“This isn’t just a course that’s about cold-weather operations,” Harvey said. “It’s also a course about teamwork, and leadership, and resiliency. Resiliency cannot be trained in the classroom. It can only be achieved in an environment like this.”
Heard said having the Air Force be a part of the course again this past training season is great to see.
“Having other branches of the military like the Air Force come through our course, in my opinion, is beneficial from an instructor standpoint,” Heard said. “It gives the instructors a better idea of the different needs of the other branches. During our after-action review, we listen to the students and take into account their input, and when applicable, make changes to the course based off of those comments.
“It also seems to work the same way for the Air Force students,” Heard said. “They get a chance to experience more of a field training exercise and the tactical considerations that go along with that type of field environment. We look forward to continuing our partnership with the Air Force for many years to come.”
Similar training environments offered within the Air Force take place at the Air Force Expeditionary Center at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J. Through the 421st Combat Training Squadron and the center’s Expeditionary Operations School, Airmen can train in contingency response, fieldcraft, security forces, and other training. Learn more by visiting www.expeditionarycenter.af.mil.