Fort McCoy, WI –
It was a calm and chilly morning in the middle of July. The sun barely broke through the tree line bringing a sense of security and warmth to the day. In the distance you can hear the birds singing, bugs and bees buzzing around. Suddenly, a high pitched whistle and explosion breaks the silence and gunfire erupts from the wood line as the opposing forces (OPFOR) initiate an early morning attack.
As gun-fire and simulated incoming mortar rounds raged, engineers from the Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 367th Engineer Battalion, returned fire and moved to their fighting positions.
The 367th from St. Joseph, Minn., are attending their annual training in support of Combat Support Training Exercise 86-19-03 (CSTX) held at Ft. McCoy, Wis. from 13 July to 2 Aug., 2019. CSTX is a large-scale training exercise consisting of tactical training scenarios specifically designed to replicate real-world missions.
“Today’s scenario was to ambush and test the Soldiers' abilities to react correctly to an attack of incoming [indirect] fire, CS gas and small-arms fire,” said Master Sgt. Jason Bullock, senior observer, coach, trainer (OC/T), with the 1st Battalion, 310th Regiment, 181st Infantry Brigade. The OC/Ts work side by side with the OPFOR to shape the environment and ensure all objectives are met to increase readiness and lethality.
During the simulated attack, a small platoon size of OPFOR ambushed the company, assaulting close to their tactical operations command (TOC) before finally being repelled. The Soldiers from the 367th have steadily been increasing in the capabilities throughout the exercise and were well prepared to respond to the ambush.
“We took few simulated casualties and the Soldiers were evacuated to the nearest field hospital,” said Capt. Benedict Zilka, commander of HHC, 367th, “the Soldiers reacted very well,” he said.
During CSTX the unit has conducted numerous intensive rehearsals to improve security for their TOC and themselves precisely for this type of ambush.
“The goal of the OPFOR is to best replicate the types of threats that U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers might face as they deploy,” said 1st Lt. Steve Fosheim, OPFOR officer in charge. “Having a live element that gives the unit leaders the stress to operate in an austere environment increases the training value for the unit.”
Units like the 376th, rarely have the opportunity to train at this scale while they are back at home station. The training at Ft. McCoy during annual training is vital to ensure they are trained and ready when their number is called.
CSTX serves as a reinforcement to initial military training and allows units to further build their teams and overall holistic unit lethality.
“Our Soldiers have been focusing on Army Warrior Tasks and Battle Drills, which are fundamental combat skills,” said 1st Sgt. David Seminary, senior enlisted advisor to the commander of HHC, 367th.
“The whole exercise adds another level of realism,” said Seminary. “The OPFOR adds the anticipation of engagement, the environment makes things challenging for us and its great training overall.”
“The Soldiers worked well as a team and I am proud to see all the different abilities we have in our unit,” said Zilka.
Upon completion, the exercise will demonstrate the Army Reserve’s ability to maintain a combat ready Reserve element with a proficiency in fundamental warrior skills.