March 10, 2017 --
It may have been a brisk 12 degrees that Friday morning on the weapons range, but the training at Operation Cold Steel was just heating up.
An estimated 1,600 U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers will travel to Fort McCoy from March 8 until April 29, 2017 to conduct the first large-scale live-fire gunnery operation of its kind in the U.S. Army Reserve.
Over the course of seven weeks, nearly 475 crews from Army Early Response Forces, or AERF, will train and qualify on the M2 .50 caliber machine gun, the M240B machine gun and the MK19 automatic grenade launcher.
Teams begin with individual qualification then progress to crew certification on drive-through pop-up ranges; they start as individuals and develop into synchronized, combat-ready teams by the end of the 12-day training cycle.
Once they arrive on ground, they have to be in the right mindset to execute training safely and effectively. Lt. Gen. Charles D. Luckey, the Commanding General of the U.S. Army Reserve Command, was the first to set the pace.
Luckey visited dozens of troops during his visit on March 10, 2017, and as a leader, his first concern was with their safety and well-being. As he walked through the crews’ training cycle, a process that takes them from crew-served weapons familiarization, to digital training aids in preparation of live-fire range operations, to the culminating field event where they test their skills by engaging targets with live ammunition, his intent was clear:
“The priority is taking care of our Soldiers,” said Luckey.
With new crews arriving daily from across the country and this being the first Army Reserve gunnery exercise of this scope, incoming Soldiers may experience a bit of trepidation, but the tone of the operation has been clearly established.
“It’s about leadership. It’s about being a leader and taking care of your Soldiers.” said Maj. Gen. Scottie D. Carpenter, Commanding General, 84th Training Command. “As a leader, when you’re given an opportunity to improve your team’s technical or tactical proficiency, you take it. The time to learn your units’ weaknesses is not in combat.”
Carpenter has taken his combat experience to change the design of the Combat Support Training Program, or CSTP, to ensure that training audience units are more combat-ready. While Operation Cold Steel does not fall under the CSTP construct, one of the 84th Training Command’s subordinate units, the 86th Training Division, was selected to lead the training at Operation Cold Steel, as well as conduct their annual Warrior Exercise and Combat Support Training Exercise at Fort McCoy later this year.
Despite the frigid temperatures, the Operation Cold Steel cadre are prepared to keep the Soldiers focused during training.
They've been working feverishly over the past few months to ensure that Soldiers are properly equipped so when they arrive on ground, they're prepared to train. Lt. Col. Byron Perkins, Commander of Operation Cold Steel, said "we have worked with the 86th Training Division Staff, Post Central Issue Facility and our First Army training partners to mitigate the combined inherent risks of the cold weather and of firing live ammunition. All involved have done an outstanding job in developing this plan. Training started a few days ago and so far everyone is doing great."
In an operation where nearly 5 million rounds of ammunition will be fired, safety is paramount.
“We’re going to increase the capacity for crews to move and shoot, we’re going to increase the capacity of master gunners and we’re going to do it safely,” said Luckey.
Since Luckey became the leader of America’s Army Reserve, there has been a big shift in changing the culture. Luckey was the tip of the spear in setting the expectation for Soldiers participating in Operation Cold Steel and as he walked the ranges, Luckey purposely sought out the junior leaders and passed on his guidance.
“It’s about Leadership, Energy, and Execution,” said Luckey. “That is: set the example and be a leader, lead with enthusiasm, and execute.” During each interaction, it was evident that he was passionate about empowering leaders at the bedrock level and encouraging them to embody the warfighter spirit.
“Every Soldier in America’s Army Reserve is part of a tribe, 200,000 strong,” said Luckey. “I expect you to operate in the spirit I tell you.” When looking for opportunities to train capable, lethal, combat-ready Army Reserve Soldiers, there is no place better to start than Operation Cold Steel where cold steel turns into hot lead.
For more information on Operation Cold Steel, please visit https://www.dvidshub.net/feature/OperationColdSteel17