FORT HUNTER LIGGETT, Calif. –
The U.S. Army Reserve serves as part of the Total Force. To build that force in the Army Reserve, there is extensive training that goes into keeping Soldiers capable, combat-ready, and lethal. For the largest Federal Reserve force in the nation's history, exercises like Operation Cold Steel II are vital in preparation to rapidly respond in any part of the world.
Operation Cold Steel II is the U.S. Army Reserve's crew-served weapons qualification and validation exercise, training thousands of Soldiers from hundreds of units nationwide. Task Force Coyote is based at Fort Hunter Liggett, California, and is the inaugural rotation of the exercise, hosted by the 79th Theater Sustainment Command. Cadre from the 79th TSC and its downtrace units support the event by filling in a variety of roles, from providing classroom instruction to range safety.
“Cadre are our leaders for the operation,” said U.S. Army Reserve 1st Sgt. Derrick Roberson, Task Force Coyote first sergeant. “We are everywhere for the Soldiers so that we can provide all the tools to help them perform.”
That's no small task, considering each group of students has a four day window to become proficient in the crew-served weapon systems they are assigned. These systems include the M249 light machine gun, M240 and M2 machine guns and the Mark 19 40 mm grenade machine gun.
“A lot of these soldiers haven't had the opportunity to handle crew-served weapons,” said U.S. Army Reserve Spc. Christian Bennett, wheeled-vehicle mechanic, 79th TSC. Bennett works in the Tactical Operations Center at Operation Cold Steel II. “This is their chance to gain new skills to take back to their home units and be a part of the Ready Force.”
Ready Force X is a pool of units tasked with maintaining higher levels of peacetime readiness to offset risk to the nation. Their mission is to rapidly respond to evolving threats.
The Soldiers training aren't the only ones learning. The 79th TSC has recently transitioned from a sustainment support command to a theater support command, and is preparing all members for their new role in the Joint Force.
“This is a great learning opportunity for everybody involved,” said Master Sgt. Robert L. Caron, maintenance supervisor, 79th TSC. For Task Force Coyote he serves as the safety noncommissioned officer-in-charge. “As we restructure, events like this help to give a feel of what lies ahead in future missions.”
Caron, in his 38th year of service, knows a thing or two about transitioning and restructuring.
“We have a lot of newer troops here at Operation Cold Steel II, supporting the mission. We have a lot of senior troops too,” he said. “We can help sharpen our younger cadre and prepare them for upcoming promotions. They help us older guys out as well because they help us adapt to the changes. It benefits everybody here.”
U.S. Army Reserve Sgt. Felicia Obaya, motor transport operator, 851st Transportation Company, 79th TSC, is a range safety officer for Task Force Coyote.
“My job is to ensure that everybody knows the proper mechanics of each of the weapons,” she said. “Ensuring that everybody is safe is top priority.”
The Cadre have not accepted this mission lightly. Primarily comprised of noncommissioned officers, these Soldiers have taken a personal interest in the task at hand.
“Every Soldier needs mentoring,” said U.S. Army Reserve Sgt. Moses Gross, financial management technician, 79th TSC and member of Task Force Coyote's range safeties. “It's good to be able to give them the one-on-one training. From the primary marksmanship instruction classes to live-firing the weapons, they need guidance.”
“This is an NCO-led mission,” Roberson added. “It's something we've been wanting for so long, and this is our time to shine. Everybody here wants to see this mission succeed.”
As for officers on the ground with Task Force Coyote, they seem to appreciate the support.
“The 79th has sent out some high quality personnel,” said Brig. Gen. Richard Staats, senior advisor for Task Force Coyote. “They're doing excellent work out here, and I don't think they could do a better job.”