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NEWS | April 10, 2017

Soldiers qualify with crew-served weapons at Operation Cold Steel

By Spc. Jeremiah Woods 358th Public Affairs Detachment

For the months of March and April 2017, Fort McCoy was alive with the movement of an estimated 1,800 Army Reserve Soldiers from approximately 60 Army Reserve units across the country as they converged on the small post in a rural part of the state to participate in an extensive field-training exercise.

The mission was the U.S. Army Reserve Command's inaugural Operation Cold Steel, hosted by the 84th Training Command. The purpose of Operation Cold Steel was to create a more deployable, combat ready and lethal fighting force within the Army Reserve by training and qualifying participating units on the crew-served weapons within the Army arsenal.

“Operation Cold Steel is the U.S. Army Reserve’s largest and first centrally run crew-served weapons and platform qualification and validation exercise,” said LTG Charles D. Luckey, Chief of Army Reserve and Commanding General of the United States Army Reserve Command. “The vast majority of Soldiers participating in this exercise are part of the Army Reserve’s Ready Force, tasked with maintaining higher levels of peacetime readiness to offset risk to the nation.”

More than 450 weapons crews were trained and certified over the seven-week duration of Operation Cold Steel. This exercise executed crew-served weapons platform qualifications through multiple 12-day rotations, with Soldiers qualified on M2, M19, and M240B weapons systems, said Luckey.

Although only a fraction of the Army Reserve force was represented at Operation Cold Steel, one of the main goals was to produce a trained force that, upon returning to their home station, will possess the knowledge and skill-sets to train additional Soldiers and bolster the fighting force across the entire Army Reserve.

“Operation Cold Steel enhances our ability to achieve the Army’s number one priority –readiness. The demonstrated leadership, energy and execution of our Soldiers will ensure America’s Army Reserve remains the most capable, combat-ready, and lethal federal reserve force in the history of the Nation,” said Luckey

Upon arrival at Fort McCoy, each Soldier was placed into a weapons crew and assigned a crew-served weapon system they trained on and ultimately qualified with at the end of their training mission. Capt. Rob Brem from the 331st Combat Support Battalion, based in Grand Prairie, Texas, and cadre for Operation Cold Steel working in the tactical operation center explained that the end state was to have crews that may not have the opportunity to do this at their home station come to a centralize location at Fort McCoy, where everything was set up on the ranges, to get qualified.

Recounting his initial days of training at Operation Cold Steel, U.S. Army Reserve Spc. Adam Paquet, a petroleum and supply specialist with the 277th Quartermaster Company from Niagara Falls, N.Y., assigned as a MK 19 40mm grenade launcher gunner during Operation Cold Steel, said, “The first day of training is eight to 10 hours of just getting familiar with the weapon; how it works, what it does, how to take it apart, clean it and put it back together and how to troubleshoot a misfire. It is basically two week's worth of training in eight hours just to get us ready to fire the weapon.”

As a participant in the exercise, Paquet said that he had been able to experience first-hand the benefit of this training for him as a Soldier as well as the unit he will be returning to. “It helps the unit become capable and lethal and deployable,” said Paquet. Being trained and getting qualified with the weapon systems at now, will help him and his unit be that much better when they get deployed, said Paquet.

Additionally, cadre and instructors for Operation Cold Steel received valuable training to enable them to endow the participants in the course with the essential tools and practical experience to complete the mission at Fort McCoy and ultimately maintain those skills in their home units.

“Vehicle Crew Evaluators, master gunners and range personnel have been trained and embedded in our forces so that operational and functional commands can conduct follow-on live fire exercises and platform gunnery to meet future requirements,” said Luckey.

“Operation Cold Steel will make them a better Soldier because the information that they get here as a crew they can take back to their own units and spin their units up,” said Staff Sgt. Patrick Anthony, a construction engineer supervisor with the 633rd Quartermaster Battalion, and a primary marksmanship instruction instructor at Operation Cold Steel. “If those Soldiers move on to another unit, they have the information and the knowledge to pass on to them so that way, when they get to an active duty deployment, they’ll know what to do, they can get spun up, if they just get dropped into a combat unit, they’ll be ready to go. They’ll have the knowledge and they’ll know what they’re doing.”

Realizing the Commander's vision of Operation Cold Steel, Anthony said, “Being a part of LTG Luckey's Operation Cold Steel has made me feel greatly honored; mainly because I get to assist in training the Soldiers and give them the materials to take back to their home units to make the whole Army Reserve force a more proficient and ready force when they get to a combat environment.”

From a command perspective, Operation Cold Steel was designed to bring the Army Reserve units to a level of readiness to respond to the global threats of the 21st century. Nine operational and functional commands were represented at Fort McCoy during the operation stretching from California to Puerto Rico.

“Ready Force units are missioned to respond to evolving global threats from quick-striking adversaries,” said Luckey. “Our joint force must be able to simultaneously wage high-end conventional warfare, protect the homeland and continue to engage in a global counter terrorism campaign in cooperation with our allies and partners – all while concurrently improving upon our ability to respond to emerging 21st century threats.”

“It’s really important that they sustain that level of proficiency because everything that they can do here keeps our readiness level up,” said Brig. Gen. Alberto Rosende, commanding general of the 1st Mission Support Command at Fort Buchanan, Puerto Rico. “What we want to be able to do with all of the expertise that we’re building within the crews that are here, is take that back to the 1st MSC so that we can train all of our units across the command.”

Rosende said it’s important for Army Reserve Soldiers to be able to capture as much as they can from Operation Cold Steel so they can turn that into a solution. In order for them to be able to adapt, they must continue to utilize the skill learned at to train all of the units across the command.

“There is huge, unprecedented level of learning happening at Fort McCoy. If you could see the looks on the Soldiers’ faces, you’d know what I mean,” said Luckey. “Cold Steel, this is the future, who we are, what we’re about – America’s Army Reserve, generating readiness and lethality.”