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NEWS | Feb. 16, 2022

After cold January, CWOC students cite Fort McCoy as ideal training location for course

By Scott Sturkol

During January 2022 at Fort McCoy, weather data shows 18 of 31 days during the month had overnight temperatures in the below-zero range — one night as cold as minus 35 degrees Fahrenheit.

And through those many cold nights, students in the Fort McCoy Cold-Weather Operations Course (CWOC) were training somewhere on the installation. Many of those students said they soon realized they were in for a challenge and later said that Fort McCoy was an ideal place for the cold-weather training.

“Fort McCoy possesses noteworthy hilly, forested terrain in a … cold environment — getting as cold as negative 26 on our coldest day,” said Spc. Thomas Horton with the Army Reserve’s 180th Transportation Company of Muskegon, Mich. Horton was a student in CWOC class 22-02 in early January. “This is optimal for an austere training environment without getting too extreme.”

Spc. Adrian Cortes with the Army Reserve’s 250th Transportation Company at El Monte, Calif., and also a CWOC class 22-02 student, said training in the cold at Fort McCoy was like nothing he’d ever experienced before.

“This was the coldest temperature I had ever experienced,” Cortes said. “I couldn’t think of a better place to have this training.”

For Spc. Jacob Ball, also a CWOC class 22-02 student with the Army Reserve’s 652nd Engineer Company at Hammond, Wis., experiencing cold nights in tents and improvised shelters as well as participating in cold-water immersion training made for great training. He also said Fort McCoy was the right place for it.

“This course has helped me prepare for cold-weather regions and skills like cross-country skiing and improvised shelter building will help me survive in those areas,” Ball said. “Fort McCoy can be cold and snowy like those areas would be needed, and that’s why it’s a good place for this kind of training.”

For many students in CWOC class 22-03, they also said Fort McCoy fits the cold-weather training requirement perfectly.

“Fort McCoy is a superb training center,” said Capt. Daniel Kovacs, a CWOC class 22-03 student with the 415th Civil Affairs Battalion, an Army Reserve unit in Kalamazoo, Mich. “It has so many underutilized training resources and capabilities. There are not many active-duty bases with as many fun and skill-level appropriate training areas for cold-weather operations.”

Spc. Scarlett Van Damme with the Army Reserve’s 492nd Civil Affairs Battalion of Buckeye, Ariz., said she successfully survived her cold-weather shock after training with CWOC class 22-03.

“Fort McCoy is cold,” Van Damme said. “I’d never seen this much snow and ice before I arrived here. … I’d recommend this course to every unit located in a hot-weather environment. It’s necessary to be able to survive in weather conditions different from what individual Soldiers are used to experiencing.”

Hunter Heard, lead instructor for the Fort McCoy CWOC who teaches the course with fellow instructors Joe Ernst, Manny Ortiz, and Brian Semann, said the January 2022 cold-weather training may have been the coldest since the course began on post. All are with contractor Veterans Range Solutions, which works with Fort McCoy’s Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization, and Security to complete the training.

“I’ve been at Fort McCoy for a number of years, and I think this past January may have been the most consistent cold we’ve had during our January classes,” Heard said. “We had many days with single digit temperatures during the day and below zero at night. But everyone did well and from what we’ve seen the students enjoyed their learning experience.”

On extremely cold days, Heard said they take into account how the weather is as instructors and employ risk management so students are as safe as they can be.

“We will make on-the-spot changes to training sometimes based on the weather we’re experiencing,” Heard said. “But the students are always getting the best possible experience we can provide.”

Fort McCoy’s motto is to be the “Total Force Training Center.” Located in the heart of the upper Midwest, Fort McCoy is the only U.S. Army installation in Wisconsin.

The installation has provided support and facilities for the field and classroom training of more than 100,000 military personnel from all services nearly every year since 1984.

Learn more about Fort McCoy online at, on the Defense Visual Information Distribution System at, on Facebook by searching “ftmccoy,” and on Twitter by searching “usagmccoy.”

Also try downloading the Digital Garrison app to your smartphone and set “Fort McCoy” or another installation as your preferred base.