By Tom MicheleSeptember 8, 2011
FORT McCOY, Wis., Sept. 8, 2011 -- As the Army begins to drawdown its unit requirements in Iraq and Afghanistan, Fort McCoy's mobilization mission is ending this month.
A pair of Army National Guard companies -- one from Texas, the other from Louisiana -- will be the last to deploy from Fort McCoy. The departure of the 236th and 1022nd Engineer companies in late September will bring to a close a chapter in the post's history.
According to Brad Stewart, director of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security at Fort McCoy, the installation will end mobilization due to the drawdown in Iraq and end of the troop surge in Afghanistan.
"As a result, First Army conducted a rebalancing plan to draw its Mobilization Training Centers from 10 down to four," Stewart said. "Even though First Army did not select Fort McCoy, the crown jewel of the Army Reserve, to continue the mobilization mission, its military value increases daily as a premier training installation with its state-of-the-art range complex for transient units as part of their Army Force Generation cycle."
The demobilization effort at Fort McCoy also is completed; the final units and Soldiers out-processed in August.
Statistics through fiscal year 2011 show that 67,200 Soldiers mobilized, trained and deployed through Fort McCoy, and 94,300 were demobilized at the installation. The mobilization figure also includes 10,500 Air Force and Navy personnel.
Col. Scott McFarlane, Fort McCoy deputy commander for mobilization, said for the past 10 years, "The mission went very well, smooth and successful. We took good care of the Soldiers."
McFarlane said the mobilization and demobilization mission evolved from being supported by a small cell of Soldiers in the 6015th Garrison Support Unit soon after Sept. 11, 2001, to the full operation of the Mobilization Support Brigade with about 50 Soldiers, and about 160 contract civilians and mobilizing training support from about 600 Soldiers with the 181st Infantry Brigade for classroom and field exercises.
"The importance of the mission was to ensure that Soldiers who mobilized at Fort McCoy were ready to go fight a war," McFarlane said.
"Fort McCoy provided those basic and necessary skills and standards, along with the personnel, administrative, financial and medical preparations, to ensure Soldiers would be the most-effective Soldiers they could be," he said. "Fort McCoy provided the billeting, food services and infrastructure as part of the life-support side of the training Soldiers' stay at McCoy."
Noticeable on the McCoy landscape was the construction of the two contingency operating locations: Freedom, on the south side of Highway 21; and Liberty, from the former enemy-prisoner-of-war camp just outside the cantonment area to the northeast.
"They were created and constructed to replicate the environment most Soldiers would live and work in overseas." McFarlane said.
The contingency operating locations, or COL, had billeting tents and classrooms, metal sheds for storage and mobile home shells for staff and trainer offices, classrooms, and unit tactical operations centers.
A large dining structure eventually was constructed at each COL. Concertina wire-lined berms were built to surround the locations, with multi-gated entry-control points and guard towers.
"The COLs were a major focal point for operations and exercises, to be the starting point and return point for convoy operations, along with base-security and perimeter operations, just like in theater," McFarlane said.
Within the cantonment area, the major renovation of dozens of barracks, dining and administration buildings, plus the construction of vehicle maintenance garages, a major dining facility, and barracks-area laundromats and weapons-storage facilities, "improved the quality of life for the Soldiers," McFarlane said.
A major part of Fort McCoy's mobilization and demobilization operations occurred at the Soldier Readiness Center, where Soldiers had records checks, attended briefings, accomplished personnel, legal and finance actions, obtained identification cards and got information about their benefits.
Other significant areas of operations for the mobilization and demobilization mission were the information technology center and Alpha Company for administration of Soldiers with medical needs to include going to a Warrior Transition Unit, returning to civilian life, and attending military schools upon completion of a tour of duty.
The Mobilized Unit Inprocessing Center served as the operations, command-and-control center for the Soldiers' stay at McCoy. "That's where the scheduling, coordination and planning for the whole program were performed," McFarlane said.
Volk Field, the Wisconsin Air National Guard facility southeast of Fort McCoy was a major partner in the success of the mission.
Almost all Fort McCoy mobilizing and demobilizing Soldiers arrived and departed from Volk Field.
The efforts of installation and contractor personnel involved with the mob-demob mission now shift to executing drawdown plans.
Military and contract personnel will be released according to a pre-determined schedule. Buildings and equipment issued to the mob-demob program will be turned in, McFarlane said.
An archive to document and preserve best procedures and practices is being established.
"There are variables to account for, but the mobilization-demobilization mission at Fort McCoy will have the drawdown, phase-out process complete by Dec. 31," McFarlane said.
"I'm very happy with the way the entire mob-demob effort went for the Soldiers, units, and the Army at Fort McCoy," McFarlane said. "We had a fantastic group of leaders, Soldiers, civilians, and contractors conducting the mob-demob mission. The installation's command group and directorates were outstanding in supporting the effort. It was all about caring for our Soldiers. The training Soldiers, units and the Army all saw that the people at McCoy cared for the Soldiers."
Soldiers patrol the pedestrian lane at the entry-control point at Fort McCoy's Contingency Operating Location Freedom during a base-defense situational training exercise. The Soldiers are with the 236th Engineer Company, preparing to deploy in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.