FORT McCOY, Wis. –
Operation Cold Steel began in early 2017 as the U.S. Army Reserve’s largest gunnery operation. Since it kicked off, thousands of America’s Army Reserve Soldiers have qualified on individual and vehicle crew-served weapons.
Three iterations later, the last phase of Cold Steel, Task Force Fortnite, is being held at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, from Mar. 22 to Apr. 29, 2019.
During Operation Cold Steel III, Soldiers go trough training that prepares them to qualify and validate as a gun-truck crew.
Throughout the exercise, they train and qualify on several weapon systems including the M2 50 CAL machine gun, MK 19 grenade launcher, and M240B machine gun.
“When Soldiers come through Cold Steel, they get intimately familiar with mounted gunnery, said Staff Sgt. Mary A. Flores, the noncommissioned officer in charge of Range 2 during Operation Cold Steel III. “They train on every aspect, from top to bottom and when they go back to their home station they are expected to pass on the knowledge to everyone in their unit.”
Flores, a horizontal construction engineer in the U.S. Army Reserve assigned to the 327th Engineer Company, 416th Theater Engineer Command, believes every Soldier in America’s Army Reserve should be comfortable and proficient with mounted gunnery.
“We are all Soldiers first, and although understanding how to do our military occupational specialty is important, when a Soldier gets deployed they could end up in a gun-truck team at any moment and every Soldier has to be ready,” she said. “The best way to be ready is to get hands-on training like the one they receive at Cold Steel.”
The training provided during Operation Cold Steel III enhances the capabilities, the combat-readiness and lethality of America’s Army Reserve.
Many of the Soldiers who go through this exercise have never fired a crew-served weapon. However, at Cold Steel III these Soldiers get a chance to experience first-hand what it’s like to fire one of these crew-served weapons as part of team.
“I never shot a 240B, on a truck or on the ground, this was my first time ever,” said Spc. Candis S. Thornton, a motor transport operator with the 206th Transportation Company, 143rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command. “It was challenging at first but after the training that I received at Cold Steel, I feel confident. This is the best hands-on training I ever experienced.”