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NEWS | March 25, 2022

Women’s History Month: Women among thousands exceling at training at McCoy every year

By Scott Sturkol Fort McCoy Public Affairs Office

Every year, thousands of women complete some kind of training at Fort McCoy. Those women could be civil servants, or Soldiers, or even Marines, Airmen or Sailors, and they might be teaching a maintenance course or enduring cold-weather training.

And in the spirit of Women’s History Month during March each year where the Department of Defense and the Army recognize the accomplishments of women in support of military service and more, it’s likely fitting to note that women accomplish many great things at Fort McCoy as well.

Sgt. 1st Class Lindsay J. Etherton, who teaches the 89B Advanced Leader Course with Regional Training Site-Maintenance at Fort McCoy, has an important role preparing dozens of Soldiers to be better Army ammunition supply specialists every year. She said she especially enjoys teaching in the 89B ALC.

“I love this course, and it is probably my favorite level to teach,” Etherton said. “I genuinely enjoy how technical and complex the course material is. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to share my experience and knowledge with students to ensure that the finite and high level of accuracy in the field remains constant and ever-improving.”

In Fort McCoy’s Cold-Weather Operations Course (CWOC) during the 2021-22 training season, many women said they enjoyed the arduous course. CWOC challenges all students in a wide variety of training regimen in addition to dealing with extreme-cold temperatures at times as well as snow.

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.”

Spc. Laura Rau with the Army Reserve’s 365th Engineer Battalion that’s headquartered at the Robert E. Roeder U.S. Army Reserve Center in Schuylkill Haven, Penn., said learning to build a fire and receiving training on proper wear on the Army’s seven-layer Extended Cold-Weather Clothing System was great. She also enjoyed the cold-water immersion training.

“The lake jump was my favorite as well as being able to take in all the knowledge I received from very experienced instructors,” Rau said. “I’d do it all again.”

Airman 1st Class Julia Childers, a security forces Airman with the 128th Air Refueling Wing of the Wisconsin National Guard at Milwaukee, was a student in CWOC class 22-05. She said her experiences in training at Fort McCoy helped her learn a lot of new things.

“Throughout this course, I was (continuously) learning how to survive in a cold-weather climate,” Childers said. “I (also) learned how to do a patrol on snow-covered terrain.”

Childers added how Fort McCoy was ideal for her training.

“Fort McCoy provides a lot of land that makes this training as realistic as possible,” Childers said. “Each night, our ruck marches looked different, and we had to adjust our survival method based on the materials that were in the area.”

And going back to the previous CWOC training season, Pfc. Sara Huerta, a student with Higher Headquarters Battalion, 121st Field Artillery in Milwaukee, said training in CWOC class 21-05 helped her build on her Soldier skills, and more.

“This course taught me to be resilient,” Huerta said. “It taught me how to defend and protect myself in cold weather. I built special skills, including building a shelter, building fires, using rope in a variety of ways, and using other equipment.”

CWOC instructor Hunter Heard said women who have graduated the course this year and in previous years have been exceptional in their performance, too.

“As instructors, we treat all of our students as equals, regardless of age, gender, or what branch of service they come from,” Heard said. “Many of the women who come to our course are not enlisted in combat arms military specialties like combat engineer, combat medics, or military police. Many of them come to us from other support specialties, so the ruck marching, snowshoeing, and multinight bivouacking is a new experience for many of them.

“In spite of all that, the female students push just as hard as their male counterparts, and in some cases, even harder,” Heard said. “All of our students carry roughly the same equipment in their rucks out to the field. The only exception being anything extra the student wishes to pack out. Even with many variables related to our training, by and large the majority of women we have had come through our course have shown incredible grit, determination, and tenacity.”

In a past Army “Stand to” Women’s History Month article, this may have best stated the importance of recognizing the service of women to the Army and the military in general.

“From the Revolutionary War to our current conflict, women have made sacrifices for our nation. Women in uniform and those serving in the Army Civilian Corps have placed the needs of the nation above their own.”

Learn more about the Department of Defense Women’s History Month observance by visiting https://www.defense.gov/Spotlights/Womens-History-Month.

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 https://home.army.mil/mccoy, on the Defense Visual Information Distribution System at https://www.dvidshub.net/fmpao, 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.