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Combat Support Training Exercise prepares Army Reserve units to be self-sustaining in tactical objectives

By Sgt. David Lietz | 85th Support Command | Aug. 23, 2019

FORT MCCOY, Wis. — “Get down! Get away from the gate!” yelled Army Reserve Staff Sgt. Nitendra Prasad, Platoon Sergeant, 645th Inland Cargo Transfer Company, Las Vegas, Nevada.

A group of Civilians on the Battlefield arrived at a Central Receiving Shipping Point yard, an area where fuel, equipment and supplies are stored, at Tactical Training Area Independence. They were hungry and thirsty.

“Food and water, food and water,” the civilians demanded.

The Soldiers at the entry control point stood their ground unsure of who was in the crowd. Prasad stated that the unit had intelligence two days prior that there may be suicide bombers in the area and due to that potential threat, Soldiers used extreme caution as they approached the civilians and maintained a safe distance.

“If you do not leave we will use non-lethal force,” another Soldier shouted. The tension mounted. But the civilians continued demanding food and water.

“Okay, we will provide you with food and water,” shouted Spc. Nohemi Willoughby, 88 Mike (truck driver), 645th ICTC.

Then Soldiers provided bread and water to a civilian who picked them up. Following the scenario, the Soldiers gathered for a ‘hot wash’ to informally discuss how it went.

“I think overall for a first time encounter it went well. I think they could improve their communication skills and be (timelier) as they are reacting,” said Maj. Paul Bobich, Observer Coach/Trainer Team Chief, 1-340th Training Support Battalion, 85th U.S. Army Reserve Support Command, Fort Snelling, Minnesota. “They are a very talented group. The goal is for them to leave better than they came. They are engaging in self-discovery. They are holding themselves accountable.”

Assisting Civilians on the Battlefield, conducting base defense operations, convoy operations and providing first aid to wounded Soldiers are just a few of the training objectives these combat support and combat service support Soldiers participated in during the 86th Training Division’s CSTX 86-19-04 at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin.

“It went well. Collectively you thought yourself through the problem. And you are more prepared for follow-on events,” said Staff Sgt. Zac Schellinger, Observer Coach/Trainer, 1-340th TSB, operationally controlled by First Army’s 181st Multi-functional Training Brigade, who led the ‘hot wash’ of the Civilians on the Battlefield scenario. “You worked together as a team.”

The training missions during this exercise are focused on convoy operations and patrol base operations.

“We are basically going back to cold war standards because we have refocused to more traditional Army operations,” explained Sgt. Maj. Anthony Zimmerman, S-3 Operations, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 181st MFTB, Fort McCoy, Wisconsin. “We are training combat (support) and combat service support Soldiers to protect themselves because the rear echelons need to be as focused on security as the forward units,” said Zimmerman, a career infantryman with 36 years of service. “I’ve seen it go from cold war to steady state back to cold war. Our focus is now on conventional fighting. Paying attention to your operation orders, being familiar with your surroundings.”

To drive the point home that the enemy will be relentless, units are attacked day and night requiring Soldiers to stay focused on the mission during critical times like Stand-To, a state of readiness assumed by Soldiers at dusk and dawn during war. Suddenly, it happens again as nightfall sets in. Bursts of small arms fire crackled through the air and incoming, training mortar rounds hit the base and exploded.

“Gas, gas, gas!” yelled a Soldier laying in the grass. “Incoming!” yelled another Soldier quickly putting on his Chemical Biological Radiological Nuclear gas mask.

The Soldiers of the 414th Transportation Company, Orangeburg, South Carolina were under attack.

One Soldier is hit requiring another Soldier to apply first aid, while another prepares to send a nine line MEDEVAC request. Nearby another Soldier is killed because he made a critical mistake during the attack.

“He was turning his back on (the enemy). He still has to watch their sector because that’s what keeps the enemy out,” said Sgt. First Class Jason Marquardt, Observer Coach/Trainer, 1-340th TSBn. “Our end goal is to make sure the Soldiers are trained to standard. We get the Soldiers talking about the mission. We want them to be able to self-discover and train themselves.”

In addition to transportation Soldiers receiving valuable training, there was also a quartermaster company from McAllen, Texas receiving the opportunity to train in their military occupational specialty, which provided a critical resource to the units on the ground, providing clean, drinkable water.

“The troops need clean water for cooking, showering and drinking,” said Spc. Laine Valle, Water Purification Specialist, 961st Quartermaster Company, McAllen, Texas. “Our systems take the lake water, purify it and make it potable (drinkable).”

The unit, operating on Big Sandy Lake, checked the water to make sure it can be purified and then ran it through a tactical water purification system (TWPS) and stored the fresh water for delivery to the units. The Soldiers are capable of producing up to 1500 gallons of fresh water per hour or 1200 gallons per hour if the water source is sea water.

The CSTX is a critical piece of each unit’s collective training which is specifically designed around the combat support Soldier, according to Col. Daniel Jaquint, Special Projects Officer, 85th USARSC..

“The CSTX is a (Army Reserve) component exercise. It’s pulled together by a number of agencies. The 84th Training Command and 86th Training Division supplied by First Army, along with the 85th U.S. Army Reserve Support Command providing observer coach/trainers as well as maintenance support,” Jaquint said.

Jaquint visited Fort McCoy to see his Command’s OC/Ts conducting missions from their perspective and the perspective of the training audience, and learn about the challenges they face.

“The 85th U.S. Army Reserve Support Command observer coach/trainers provide critical manpower to provide in-depth coverage to the training units, and a unique point of view to assist the units to improve their functional and tactical skills,” said Lt. Col. Mike Volpe, Deputy Commanding Officer, 181st MFTB.

“They are doctrinal and subject matter experts and provide valuable assistance to the training units to overcome their limited training opportunities to achieve their commanders training objectives,” Volpe said.

In addition to Soldiers practicing the skills needed to survive on the battlefield, a new way of thinking is needed to be ready for future conflicts.

“Army Reserve Soldiers are very good at their technical skills,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Ryan Welch, 1-340 TSB with 28 years of Army service. “I come to these exercises focusing on getting the Soldiers into a tactical mindset. I want them to be able to survive in an austere environment. We are not in a ‘making-friends’ kind of business. You have to be ready to fight!”