FORT McCOY, Wis. –
As the COVID-19 pandemic mostly shut the United States down, and even the world, the Army kept rolling along. This statement is true at any military installation, but more acutely at Fort McCoy.
As one of the premier Army Reserve training locations, it has been one busy summer at McCoy. It has also been busy for the 641st Regional Support Group of St. Petersburg, Fla., as the unit was on post to support the Army Forces Command mobilization exercise Pershing Strike ’21 throughout July.
From Warrior Exercise training to command post exercises, Fort McCoy is no stranger to multiple training scenarios culminating at one time. Pershing Strike is one such exercise with strategic importance.
For nearly a year, the command and staff of the 641st helped plan for the exercise, which is a Mobilization Force Generation Installation (MFGI) exercise. The purpose of Pershing Strike ‘21 was to test the capabilities of Fort McCoy as an MFGI for the Army Reserve.
The 641st RSG was chosen to provide oversight and support of mobilization activities of the MFGI. During Pershing Strike ‘21, the unit became what is known as a Mobilization Support Force (MSF), which synchronized and controlled execution of all mobilization operations.
“Imagine one of our adversaries invaded a neighboring country that was our ally,” said Maj. Stephen Parkerhaase, S-3 operations officer for the 641st. “The active component could only sustain themselves for so long. Most of the Army’s sustainment is in the Army Reserve, and that’s why this is a no-fail mission for us.”
Over the course of a month, the MSF processed more than 1,200 Soldiers through Fort McCoy, 300 of whom are continuing on to real-world missions. All Soldiers were provided sustainment and logistical support from the time they arrived until the time they departed.
“We need to prove to our (leaders) that we can do this, but more importantly, we need to show our adversaries that we are capable of this as well,” said Parkerhaase.
The MSF was also challenged with an Emergency Deployment Readiness Exercise injected into part of Pershing Strike ‘21. The MSF had to switch gears and provide support for the 2nd Battalion, 30th Infantry Battalion, 10th Mountain Division, from Fort Polk, La., within a five-day period. This kind of scenario tests the Army Reserve’s capabilities to see how many Soldiers they can push through to rapidly deploy anywhere in the world, 641st planners said.
“There is all this talk about meeting a near-peer enemy. Well, I don’t believe that,” said Col. Cheley Gabriel, brigade commander for the 641st RSG. “I see our enemies evolving into solid peers in several areas such as technology, resources, and personnel and even out-pacing us in some areas, and we need to be ready for that.”
Currently, Fort McCoy is one of nine Army Reserve MFGIs. For a large-scale worldwide mobilization, Fort McCoy can serve as a needed augmentation for the effort of rapid deployment of the Army’s maximum combat strength to the battlefield.
Fort McCoy Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security (DPTMS) Director Mike Todd said everything that took place during Pershing Strike ’21 was meant to stress MFGI capabilities.
“This exercise enabled Army Forces Command to prepare their system for a unit to deploy,” Todd said, noting it helps the command and units make sure everything such as personnel and equipment are ready for a deployment while at the same time helping refine the MFGI capabilities.
During the Pershing Strike ’21 after-action review held July 29 at Fort McCoy, exercise planners said they will take what was learned during training from feedback and lessons learned and improve the MFGI process.