By Tom Michele, Fort McCoyDecember 11, 2009
Col. Michael Todd, commander of the 181st Infantry Brigade at Fort McCoy, said his brigade is focused on training Soldiers for deployment in support of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom as the winter season approaches.
"We are very busy providing ready and trained forces," Todd said. "Our mission is not diminishing, but rather it has a similar load, even an increase, from past years and certainly at this time of year."
The 181st is tasked with providing the mobilization training at McCoy.
Todd also emphasized the changes going on with the 181st.
"We are in a transition of training more Soldiers for missions in Iraq to missions in Afghanistan. We are still doing the specialization training for engineers."
A very high percentage of mobilizing Soldiers at McCoy are engineers. There also are regular iterations of finance units, plus groups of Air Force, Navy and some Coast Guard personnel.
"With the transition from sending Soldiers to Iraq to now sending Soldiers to Afghanistan, our emphasis and focus is adjusting to what the threat is in Afghanistan," Todd said. "That Afghan threat is more violent. So, our 181st Soldiers in the Opposing Forces Company will replicate the level of violence and complexity of attack on McCoy's training lanes."
"Also," Todd said, "with the transition to Afghanistan, we have the winter weather conditions Soldiers will encounter in-theater. McCoy's winter weather conditions match those in Afghanistan, much more so than Iraq."
"We will be marrying the combat effects skills of route-clearance units with the construction effects of engineer units that will be providing protection for Soldiers from the environment," Todd said.
"We train combat effects battalions and construction effects battalions - all are engineers," he said.
"We are identifying hazards to Soldiers training in cold-weather environments. We are mitigating those hazards by putting heating capabilities in training areas," said Todd. This will include having heaters in vehicles and the Southwest Asia-type huts that have been constructed in many of McCoy's training areas.
Soldiers, trainees and trainers, will be wearing more loose layers of clothing to prevent hypothermia.
"Winter weather in Wisconsin changes instantly, so Soldiers will be instructed to bring all of their cold-weather gear immediately when reporting for duty each day," Todd said. "The weather likely will change, and Soldiers will need to be prepared immediately. Soldiers, both trainers and trainees, are being issued extreme cold-weather gear to protect them against the cold."
There is a lot of close cooperation between the 181st and the Fort McCoy garrison to accomplish the mobilization mission. "We work very closely with Garrison Commander Col. David Chesser and Deputy for Mobilization Col. Bas Oskam. It is a good partnership with a great synergy. There also are our partners from other installations, and other states, particularly Wisconsin, Iowa and Minnesota Guard," Todd said.
The 181st is comprised of about 75 active component, 160 National Guard and 310 Army Reserve Soldiers on active duty. There are another 170 Soldiers in a Troop Program Unit status.
"Many are serving one- and two-year terms of service, and many have recent combat experience," Todd said.
In briefly glancing back at the big picture, and noting that most if not all mobilizing Soldiers coming through Fort McCoy are National Guard and Reserve, Todd said, "Our Citizen Soldiers are contributing greatly in achieving our country's objectives."