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    86th Training Division tests feasibility of training in COVID environment



    Story by Sgt. Alyssa Blom 

    86th Training Division

    FORT MCCOY, Wis. – With the COVID-19 pandemic, the Army Reserve and 86th Training Division adapted training to allow Soldiers to remain trained and ready, while protecting their health and safety.

    The 86th Training Division conducted Operation Ready Warrior - Mission Rehearsal Exercise (MRX) to test systems and procedures ensuring the ability to provide training in a COVID-19 environment.

    “It’s the first time since COVID-19 hit that the Army Reserve has brought Soldiers together to train like this in a group scenario. We are testing the process to ensure the safety of our Soldiers as we make the training happen,” said Col. Kurt C. Adams, 86th Training Division operations, plans and training officer. “We will work to remain a trained, ready force, but we will also actively focus on making sure the health of our Soldiers and Army Reserve Families is a top priority.”

    The 86th Training Division regularly hosts annual exercises, assisting joint, international and active duty forces in preparing and assessing unit readiness through live training. Training in 2020, however, was adapted to meet the needs of a new environment. The MRX provides a proof of concept for two larger Operation Ready Warrior exercises, showcasing further fidelity to the Army Reserve’s ability to train during COVID-19.

    “This ‘proof of concept’ was to see if we could get Army Reserve Soldiers back to training in the real world,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Douglas D. Dieckman, 86th Training Division senior enlisted advisor. “There were a lot of challenges and uncertainty due to changes in the COVID environment. We had to have a lot of patience, as this was all a new concept of training.”

    The goal of the MRX was to provide a framework on which other units will build and refine the process. The concept was to bring Soldiers together to train in ‘bubbles, a phrase coined to denote the individual groups, to adhere to CDC and Army COVID guidelines.

    “The MRX was to test the capabilities and establish a baseline within the COVID training environment,” said Brig. Gen. Stacy M. Babcock, 86th Training Division commanding general. “We tested high-risk activities essential to in-person training in communal environments like barracks and dining facilities, and training where Soldiers are in close proximity or touching the same equipment.”

    Prior to the MRX, participating Soldiers were screened for COVID. Once the Soldiers arrived at Fort McCoy they were isolated into their respective ‘bubble’. Over the next few days, the teams conducted a scaled-down proof of concept exercise while maintaining the integrity of the ‘bubbles’. Training included the Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT), conducting updated weapons qualification, Situational Training Exercise (STX) lanes, and other Army skills and tasks.

    Within the bubble, spirits were high from the Soldiers, who said they were happy to be back in uniform and training.

    “Going through the training in-person was helpful,” said Spc. John P. Russell, 86th Training Division combat documentation specialist. “I liked participating in a physical training environment. When you do this training notionally or just talking about the tasks, you just don’t learn it as well.”

    The 86th TD assessed the feasibility of reproducing the same quality of training for other units.

    “The Army Reserve continues to evaluate the environment as new information becomes available, “said Lt. Col. William Geddes, 86th Training Division chief of training. “The focus is on maintaining a trained, ready force, but we need to do it safely. This MRX was a way for us to test some of the ways we had found to mitigate the risk and to find friction points where things weren’t working so we could make adjustments.”

    The next iteration of ORW is through the 78th Training Division which will use lessons learned from the MRX.

    In addition to providing an avenue for annual training, this proof of concept also provides more flexibility for the Army Reserve to operate in the current environment.

    “This is to see if the Army Reserve can replicate training events for units in the future,” said Dieckman. “It simulates what a unit can do for battle assembly. This has opened up opportunity for units, so we can get back to training.”



    Date Taken: 08.12.2020
    Date Posted: 08.12.2020 16:05
    Story ID: 375839
    Location: FORT MCCOY, WI, US 

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    Downloads: 1