FORT McCOY, Wis. –
Blue skies dotted with fluffy clouds. Fields of green surrounded by groves of trees. Gentle breezes and the swaying of branches from time to time. A typical tranquil setting, suddenly interrupted by the cracks of unexpected gunfire in the distance.
Soldiers spring to action to defend the perimeters of their bases. They mount machine guns, aim their M4 carbines equipped with blank firing adapters toward the sound of danger, and shoot, move, and communicate intently during Warrior Exercise (WAREX) 78-22-02 on Fort McCoy, Wisconsin.
WAREX serves as an annual training opportunity for many U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers. The training exercise works on practicing Army Warrior Tasks and drills, reinforcing skills that keep a Soldier ready to fight.
“Our Soldiers have learned a lot in regards to base defense,” said Spc. Melina Lambert, a transportation management coordinator with the 940th Movement Control Team. “We’ve been really focusing on improving our strategies for base defense. A lot of them are newer, so they don’t really know much about [annual training] in general, so they’re getting a sneak peek of what the Army and the Reserve is really like.”
“And now with WAREX, we've been able to do a lot more AWTs [Army Warrior Tasks] which has helped … with our normal Soldier tasks that we should be working on, every time we come out,” she continued. “And I feel as though it's been a lot nicer than being in the office.”
But being in the field presents its own challenges. Beads of sweat form on foreheads, and wearing a full long-sleeved uniform with load-bearing vests and protective helmets along with a combat load introduces fatigue just from carrying a Soldier’s weapon and gear.
“The training has been a little difficult at first… especially with the heat and climate conditions,” said Army Sgt. Juan Stamps Jr., a transportation movement coordinator with the 940th Movement Control Team. “We’ve had a lot of heat casualties, unfortunately. But we learned to adapt and keep our Soldiers hydrated and out of the sun so that we can continue our training.”
The exercise also presents opportunities to identify and strengthen weaknesses with individuals, and thus, units, as a whole.
“I feel with our Soldiers, our communication could be better, and that has been a work in progress,” Lambert reflected. “Otherwise, we've been doing a really good job learning a lot of information.”
“It's all about getting new perspectives on the same thing we all do, which is train and be better. Without failure, success would never come. But I feel that this AT has definitely helped with creating a team now. And we feel a lot closer.”
“We've learned a lot not just as a unit but as individual Soldiers as well,” Stamps said. “We'll come back, we'll all talk about the things that we learned. The funny things, the bad things. We learn about each other and we help each other out when we don't know as much as we should.”
“It's been a fun bonding experience for the unit.”
Overall, Soldiers are coming out of WAREX with newfound experiences, thoughts, and wisdom. Through trial and error, thick and thin, even just a few weeks of working in austere environments and training as one would fight enhances the capabilities of the Soldiers of the U.S. Army. And Soldiers welcome the challenge.
“Embrace the suck,” Lambert said. “[Annual training] can be difficult and have difficult moments. But within those difficult moments you can find peace and making sure to focus on that peace is very important.”