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    Fort McCoy's 2021 in review: First half of year saw vaccinations, increased training, new construction

    Fort McCoy's 2021 in review: First half of year saw vaccinations, increased training, new construction

    Photo By Scott Sturkol | Airman 1st Class Jarva Brown with the 164th Security Forces Squadron at Memphis Air...... read more read more

    From a continuing pandemic response to increased training operations and historic visits and missions, 2021 was a unique year at Fort McCoy. Through every month, no matter challenge appeared, the installation team stood strong to get the mission done.

    Right at the start of the new year, more than 20 students with Fort McCoy Cold-Weather Operations Course (CWOC) class 21-02 began training. Among the initial training was practicing pulling ahkio sleds full of gear while walking in snowshoes. They also completed skiing training and cold-water immersion training on an ice-covered Big Sandy Lake on the installation’s South Post.

    When discussing the skiing training, CWOC instructor Joe Ernst said that for many students, it is a first-time experience. For many, it’s also a new experience to try any of the equipment used in the course.

    “Essentially, when they come here, they are starting from scratch,” Ernst said. “By the end of training, I would say on average that 90 percent of the students, and maybe more, are competent in using the equipment.”
    On Jan. 15, 2021, Fort McCoy Garrison Commander Col. Michael Poss also joined in the CWOC training for class 21-02 by participating in the cold-water immersion portion at the end of the course.

    The installation was hit with a unique weather event Jan. 6 — rime ice. The ice covered everything, especially trees, and provided a picturesque landscape of a winter wonderland.

    On Jan. 21, Fort McCoy held its annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day Observance at McCoy’s Community Center with Clayborn Benson of Milwaukee serving as the guest speaker. Benson, who is a photographer, historian, and military veteran, worked at WTMJ-TV in Milwaukee for 40 years and is also the executive director of the Wisconsin Black Historical Society. Benson gave his presentation to a limited audience because of COVID-19 prevention measures.

    On Jan. 22, four Soldiers with U.S. Army Garrison Fort McCoy, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, were presented with the Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medals. Maj. Eddie Woody, 1st Sgt. Leonardo Ramos, Sgt. 1st Class Gregory Parks, and Staff Sgt. Anthony Cintron received their medals during a presentation by Poss in building 100 at Fort McCoy.

    Additionally during the month, Fort McCoy’s Whitetail Ridge Ski Area, which is operated by the Fort McCoy Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation, was in the midst of having one of its best operation seasons in many years. Also of note for the month, the Fort McCoy Army Community Service office established a series of resiliency workshops for the year and woodworking workshops for the remainder of winter.

    On the construction front, work on a new four-story transient training barracks continued, contractors continued work on a sixth new simulations training facility, and renovations of numerous World War II-era buildings continued on post.

    Two new forestry technicians working with the Forestry Office of the Directorate of Public Works Environmental Division Natural Resources Branch also were introduced to the Fort McCoy community in early January through The Real McCoy newspaper. Tim Parry and Nick Randall had already been working on post since 2020 and were happy to be a part of the team.

    “I’m really looking forward to creating and managing Fort McCoy’s forests for not just the military, but wildlife, too,” said Parry, who’s lived in Seattle and Menomonee Falls, Wis. “I’d also like to become more involved with the prescribed burns and possibly wildfires that occur on Fort McCoy.”

    “In this field (forestry), I get to manage some forests and trees that will be around a lot longer than I will be, and I like to think, at the end of the day, I am making it a lot better place. And, also, these forest lands will be used for generations of training, wildlife, and recreating,” said Randall, a native of New Berlin, Wis. “Every day is a little different. … I also like to think that not a lot of people can say their ‘office’ is out in the woods.”

    As February began, many Fort McCoy personnel were receiving their first COVID-19 vaccinations, including leaders of the Fort McCoy Garrison as well as first responders throughout the post.

    The vaccinations were made available thanks to the Department of Defense’s Operation Warp Speed, which was established in 2020 as part of the COVID-19 pandemic response. Poss was the first military member to receive the vaccine on post at the Fort McCoy Health Clinic. Fort McCoy’s first civilian vaccine recipient was Erica Miller — a registered nurse with the clinic.

    “I have very high confidence in the vaccine,” Poss said in February 2021. “Every Soldier, employee, or family member at Fort McCoy is encouraged to receive the vaccine as it becomes available within the prioritization guidance to protect their health, families, and the Fort McCoy community.”

    At the beginning of February 2021, CWOC Class 21-03 was wrapping up its training. Eleven Marines and Soldiers made up the class and during their final training event — cold-water immersion — they experienced -12 degrees with colder wind-chill temperatures as they jumped in and out of water at Big Sandy Lake on Fort McCoy’s South Post.

    On Feb. 4, a snowstorm dropped several inches of snow at Fort McCoy. Among those having to deal with the snow were hundreds of U.S. Navy recruits staying at Fort McCoy. In 2020, Fort McCoy was selected as a restriction-of-movement site for Navy recruits by the Navy’s Recruit Training Command because of the COVID-19 pandemic. For many of the recruits, the heavy snowfall on Feb. 4 was possibly the most snow they had seen in their lifetimes, officials said.

    The installation also recognized the 30th anniversary of Operation Desert Shield/Operation Desert Storm with a special 4-page newspaper insert to The Real McCoy newspaper. Included in the coverage was highlighting the 890th Transportation Company — an Army Reserve company that completed predeployment training for the operations at Fort McCoy in 1990 and redeployment ops on post in 1991.

    Fort McCoy also hosted a pond hockey tournament Feb. 13 at Big Sandy Lake on South Post that featured eight teams and raised more than $1,200 for Army Emergency Relief.

    On Feb. 18, the 181st Multi-Functional Training Brigade, a Fort McCoy tenant organization, held the “Cabin Fever ‘21” event on post. The event was a week-long event that promoted health and fitness for unit members.

    On Feb. 25, Fort McCoy held its 2021 Black History Month observance at McCoy’s Community Center. Woody of Fort McCoy Garrison served as the guest speaker who highlighted the importance of the observance, and more.

    Also in late February, the Fort McCoy Public Affairs Office was recognized with numerous communications/public awards earned with the Army’s Installation Management Command as well as the Defense Visual Information Distribution System.

    In March, Fort McCoy’s total economic impact for fiscal year (FY) 2020 was announced at an estimated $1.479 billion — above the $1.184 billion reported for FY 2019. The data was compiled by Fort McCoy’s Plans, Analysis and Integration Office.

    Workforce payroll, operating costs, and other expenditures totaled $369 million for FY 2020 compared to $296 million for FY 2019. A total of 2,549 personnel worked at Fort McCoy in FY 2020 — 1,476 civilians, 509 military, and 564 contract employees. Approximately 68 percent of the workforce lives within Monroe County. The total FY 2020 workforce payroll for civilian and military personnel was $165.99 million. FY 2020 operating costs of $194.4 million included utilities, physical plant maintenance, repair and improvements, new construction projects, purchases of supplies and services, as well as salaries for civilian contract personnel working at Fort McCoy.

    Other expenditures accounted for $9.3 million and covered $330,494 in payments to local governments (including land permit agreements, school district impact aid, etc.) as well as $9 million in discretionary spending in local communities by service members training at Fort McCoy. Other factors of economic impact for the fiscal year included $50.3 million in military construction on post.

    CWOC Class 21-04 also finished up in March. The class was approximately 50 students and nearly all were Airmen from the Air Force Reserve. Most were security forces Airmen with the 164th Security Forces Squadron of Memphis, Tenn. Many gave promising feedback about their training.

    Staff Sgt. Clifton Cattron with the 164th 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.”

    With on-post construction, work began in early March 2021 for a second four-story transient training barracks adjacent to the first project. The second $18.8 million project also was awarded to L.S. Black Constructors, which was the contractor for the first barracks project.
    Navy Recruit Training Command’s commanding officer, Capt. Erik Thors, visited Fort McCoy on March 15, 2021. He met with Poss and other garrison leaders and visited with Navy staff supporting the Navy’s restriction-of-movement mission on post.

    On March 18, 2021, Fort McCoy held its Women’s History Month observance with Capt. Shaye Haver, Delta Company commander with the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, serving as the guest speaker. Haver spoke via video connection. She was one of the first two women to graduate from Army Ranger School after it opened to women in 2015.
    Also on March 18, Fort McCoy held its first prescribed burn of the year clearing dry grass and brush along the railroad tracks on the installation’s South Post. The effort covered several miles and was supported by several dozen personnel from the Fort McCoy Directorate of Public Works (DPW), Directorate of Emergency Services (DES), and several other agencies.

    On March 19, 2021, 12 students in CWOC Class 21-05 finished their training with their cold-water immersion training event at Big Sandy Lake. The difference in that class was there was no longer any ice on the lake, so they walked in and completed their water immersion.

    At the end of March 2021, the Fort McCoy Public Affairs Office was awarded several public affairs/communications awards in the Army Materiel Command David Harris Communications competition. The office earned awards in video, print, digital media management, and community relations.

    Fort McCoy began April 2021 with the observance of numerous awareness campaigns. These included Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month (SAAPM), Alcohol Awareness Month, Child Abuse Prevention Month, and National Autism Awareness Month.

    Leaders across Fort McCoy had held a special ceremony previously for the observances on March 18 at the 88th Readiness Division headquarters on post. Once April began, Fort McCoy Army Community Service employees and others across post held smaller events for each special observance. On April 14, 2021, Obbie West, chief executive officer of Words of West LLC, shared his personal experiences as part of a SAAPM event.

    Fort McCoy’s Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security (DPTMS) held its first-ever training workshop April 7-8 to highlight how to complete training planning, support requests, and more. The workshop supported 23 training planners from across the Army.
    On April 15, Fort McCoy held a special groundbreaking ceremony highlighting the construction of the two four-story barracks in the 1600 block at Fort McCoy. Fort McCoy senior leaders, Army Corps of Engineers and contractor representatives, and other distinguished guests participated in the ceremony.

    Fort McCoy leaders participating included Maj. Gen. Darrell Guthrie, 88th Readiness Division commanding general and Fort McCoy senior commander; Poss; Fort McCoy Directorate of Public Works Director Liane Haun; Sean Giese, resident engineer with the Omaha District Corps of the Army Corps of Engineers; and James French, chief operating officer with LS Black Constructors. Also attending were Wisconsin state Rep. Nancy VanderMeer and staff personnel for other state and federal lawmakers.

    “Projects like the transient training barracks complex are a direct result of the continued support for Fort McCoy,” Guthrie said. “And they enhance the ability of the Army, and especially the Army Reserve, to train here at Fort McCoy. The United States Army Reserve is the key customer for Fort McCoy. Its economic impact alone in Wisconsin is $323 million a year.”

    Maj. James Lavelle was also welcomed as the new commander April 14 for Headquarters and Headquarters Company, U.S. Army Garrison Fort McCoy, during a special ceremony. Lavelle replaced Woody, who moved on to a position at Southern Illinois University.

    From April 19-23, First Army held its 2021 Best Warrior competition at Fort McCoy. Six Soldiers from First Army competed. At the end, Sgt. 1st Class Francisco Torres with the 120th Infantry Brigade emerged victorious and claimed the title of First Army Best Warrior.

    At the end of April, Fort McCoy supported a rail-loading exercise and movement that included Army National Guard members with the 107th Support Maintenance Company of the Wisconsin National Guard. The company sent dozens of pieces of equipment and vehicles to support training exercises in Europe.

    On April 29, the U.S. Navy’s restriction-of-movement mission at Fort McCoy concluded. The last recruits left and after it was all completed, thousands of Navy recruits had spent time at Fort McCoy prior to going to basic training at Great Lakes Naval Training Base, Ill. The Navy mission at Fort McCoy was the first time the installation had supported the Navy in that capacity in its 100-plus year history.

    On April 30, Fort McCoy held an Arbor Day observance where dozens of children and several adults participated. The annual celebration, coordinated by the Fort McCoy Forestry Office, saw participants plant more than 400 trees near Pine View Campground. Overall, more than 5,000 trees were planted across post in an effort related to the event.
    Also on April 30, Fort McCoy’s Pine View Campground opened for the season.

    In early May 2021, Soldiers associated with units of Army Reserve Medical Command trained at Fort McCoy as part of Expert Field Medical Badge certification. The training included more than three dozen Soldiers. To earn the badge, participants were evaluated in an Army physical fitness test, written test, day and night land navigation, in combat testing lanes, and a 12-mile march.

    On May 7, Fort McCoy’s DFMWR and its McCoy’s Community Center provided free meals to service members as part of a Military Appreciation Day event. Dozens of service members were supported with a free drive-thru meal.

    In mid-May, Army Reserve Soldiers with the 416th Theater Engineer Command conducted firefighting apparatus training in cooperation with the Fort McCoy DES Fire Department. The week-long course focused on a wide variety of firefighting skills development and offered certification for participants.

    Also in mid-May, Navy Seabees with Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 25 — a former tenant unit at Fort McCoy — held their annual training at the installation, supporting many troop projects on post. A new gazebo at Pine View Campground was among the many projects they completed.

    Other training that took place also included Soldiers with the 652nd Engineer Company building a floating bridge May 21 at Big Sandy Lake on Fort McCoy’s South Post. The lake is one of the installation’s main training areas for bridge-building operations.

    From May 19-28, approximately 80 Soldiers participated in the Army Reserve Best Warrior Competition at Fort McCoy. A top noncommissioned officer, Soldier, and squad were chosen.

    On May 25, DFMWR held a special stand-down day to recognize many of its members. Dozens of DFMWR team members earned awards as well as other recognition, especially for having completed much of their work for more than a year while responding to global pandemic measures because of COVID-19.

    On Memorial Day, May 31, Fort McCoy’s historic Commemorative Area was opened to the public on certain days of the week. The opening was after the Fort McCoy Armed Forces Day Open House had been canceled for a second straight year due to COVID-19 protective measures.

    Also on Memorial Day, numerous Fort McCoy service members and employees support Memorial Day events in the local communities of Sparta and Tomah and other areas.

    Installation Management Command (IMCOM)-Readiness Director Brenda Lee McCullough visited Fort McCoy from June 7-9. She was joined by Command Sgt. Maj. Dan Dennison, senior enlisted adviser for IMCOM-Readiness. McCullough and Dennison visited Fort McCoy to tour training and quality-of-life facilities and attend briefings about Fort McCoy — including the Installation Planning Board, which develops the Integrated Priorities List in support of improving installation services and programs.
    During the visit, they spoke with senior leadership throughout the garrison. They also visited simulation facilities run by the Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security; toured several Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation programs; visited one of the new, recently completed homes in South Post Housing; and saw the new modern barracks construction, which is overseen by the Directorate of Public Works.

    Also by early June 2021, both barracks construction projects on Fort McCoy were going strong. The FY 2019-funded project had surpassed 80 percent complete, and the FY 2020-funded project had reached nearly 10 percent completion.

    The 2021 observance of the Army’s 246th birthday was held June 11, 2021, at Fort McCoy with hundreds of Fort McCoy community members participating. Observance events were coordinated by DFMWR.

    Events were more like 2019 than 2020, which was limited due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For 2021, the celebration at Fort McCoy began with a 5k run that started at Rumple Fitness Center. Dozens of service members and Fort McCoy community members participated in the run that took participants throughout the installation’s cantonment area. As the run was going on, over at McCoy’s Community Center, a drive-thru breakfast was held from 7-9 a.m. Visitors received a birthday cupcake and T-shirt. DFMWR also had free car washes available for the Fort McCoy community, of which 146 people took advantage.

    On the training front in June 2021, Fort McCoy supported the National Guard’s Patriot 2021 exercise as well as the 86th Training Division’s Warrior Exercise (WAREX) 86-21-02.

    In the WAREX, it was a return to basics, according to an article by Debralee Best with the 86th.

    “While operations for the Army Reserve and the 86th Training Division did not come to a complete halt during the COVID-19 pandemic, operations were limited. The 2021 Army Reserve training exercise season has transitioned to full-spectrum operations,” the article states.
    “When we were doing the planning for this summer for the exercises that the 86th would be conducting, the feedback from the units was that they wanted something somewhat challenging, but a little more basic that would get after some of the Soldier skills,” said Brig. Gen. Stacy M. Babcock, commanding general, 86th Training Division and exercise director for Warrior Exercise 86-21-02, in the article. Due to this feedback, the 86th TD decided to scale back training and conduct a WAREX.

    Patriot 2021 is a joint, interagency exercise sponsored by the National Guard Bureau. It took place at Volk Field, Wis., Combat Readiness Training Center and Fort McCoy from June 14-17, 2021. It was a training exercise designed for civilian emergency management and responders to work with military entities in the same manner that they would during disasters.

    The exercise tests the National Guard’s abilities to support response operations based on simulated emergency scenarios, such as an earthquake creating a collapsed building, mass casualties, and the need for search and rescue along with evacuations of injured personnel. The National Guard, along with local, state, and federal partners, deployed to exercise venues at and around Volk Field as well as at Fort McCoy.

    For 90 minutes on June 15, 2021, dozens of installation community members witnessed the music of entertainer Chris Kroeze during a concert in McCoy’s Community Center at Fort McCoy.

    The concert, coordinated by the Wisconsin USO and supported by the Fort McCoy Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation, offered the first indoor musical event like this on post since the start off the pandemic in 2020.

    “Chris Kroeze stopping by to entertain the troops was a breath of fresh air to many military members who have spent the last year with the rest of the country watching COVID-19 TV coverage or visiting or staffing testing sites,” said Operations and Program Manager Ellie Hazlett with USO Wisconsin. “For the USO to be able to bring someone of Chris’ skill and talent to Fort McCoy was exciting.”

    Kroeze is a native of Barron, Wis., and is familiar with the installation. “I’m glad to be here,” he said.

    During the second half of 2021, more historic events, training, and more took place.

    (Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of two articles looking back at 2021 at Fort McCoy. Look for part two of Fort McCoy’s 2021 in review in the Jan. 28 edition of The Real McCoy.)



    Date Taken: 01.14.2022
    Date Posted: 01.14.2022 16:35
    Story ID: 412947
    Location: FORT MCCOY, WI, US 

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