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First iteration of Operation Cold Steel III complete

By Staff Sgt. Christopher Sofia | 78th Training Division | Dec. 13, 2018

JOINT BASE McGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. — Operation Cold Steel II’s Task Force Ultimate finished out strong during the humid summer months at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey. Back at JB-MDL, N.J., just two months later, Task Force Dagger, picked up the torch to host the U.S. Army’s largest gunnery operation and kicked off Operation Cold Steel III. 

The Oct. 28 to Dec. 1, 2018, training was once again led by U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command (Airborne). “Platform qualification is an opportunity for Commanders to evaluate their combat readiness with their assigned equipment. Operation Cold Steel provides that opportunity,” said Staff Sgt. Ryan Sanders, Master Gunner from the 372nd Military Police Company. “My mission is straightforward; teach crews how to use their crew-served weapons and achieve a superior level of lethality, so they can engage the enemy with a standardized process and survive. In addition, with OCS III, we are teaching the major support commands how to conduct this training on their own.”

The five-day training cycle permitted 97 crews of three to conduct mounted gunnery training by enhancing individual and crew-coordination, engagement techniques, and target acquisition while firing either the M240B or M2 machine guns. All throughout the training, Soldiers moved tactically down range in vehicles and engaged targets both during the day and night aided by the AN/PAS-13 Thermal Weapon Sight. 

On day one, Soldiers went through Gunnery Skills Training where they learned to identify different ammunition types. Then they viewed a slide show featuring standard and thermal imaging, enabling to them recognize 25 different military vehicles which included both U.S. and enemy aircraft, trucks, tanks, and missile firing platforms. At the conclusion of the lesson, a test was given in order for them to move on to the next phase of training. 

The next day, Soldiers headed over to simulations and practiced pre-live fire training using Virtual Battle Space 3 (VBS3). VBS3 is a computer based virtual simulation that allows Soldiers to collectively train on standard operating procedures, aiding them in understanding and applying the military decision-making process. 

On day three, Soldiers then got to put the skills learned from the prior two days into action on the blank-fire range. A Vehicle Crew Evaluator (VCE) rode with each crew and scored them on their ability to work as a crew, identify targets, and use the correct fire commands. An after-action review was conducted following the training. 

Day four consisted of practice for qualification. Soldiers were given live rounds to fire and engage truck and troop targets. 

Day five was the culmination of all training as crews put their mettle to test and were given a score which validated them at various levels of proficiency. In the end, Task Force Dagger saw an 88 percent overall qualification rate and expended more than 166,000 rounds of live ammunition. 

“Most Soldiers that have come through Cold Steel events I have worked say that it is the best training they have ever had in the Army. That’s from privates and sergeants 1st. class alike. I take pride in that because too often the biggest complaint from Soldiers is the lack of meaningful training,” said Sanders. “What we’re doing here makes a difference and gives our senior leadership a more competent, lethal force, ready for real world operations.”

Task Force Dagger was the first iteration of Operation Cold Steel III. The coming new year will see the 79th Theater Sustainment Command host the second iteration of OCS III, Task Force Coyote at Fort Hunter Liggett, California. OCS III, Task Force Fortnite led by the 377th Theater Sustainment Command will also host an iteration of Cold Steel at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin.