FORT McCOY, Wis. –
The bang of the firing pin igniting the round through the barrel of the M-4, the echo of which caroms off the surrounding hills and trees, draws the attention of all ears in the area. The ranges at Fort McCoy are once again hot as Army Reserve Soldiers are conducting training in preparation for an upcoming mobilization to the Central Command area of responsibility.
“This weekend is weapon familiarization and range qualification,” said Spc. Jason Werlinger, a medic with the 409th Medical Company Area Support out of Madison, Wis. “It’s good because we have a lot of new people and people who don’t do any of this on the civilian side. Familiarization is getting hands on, getting eyes on, getting that experience, getting that usage time in. Learning is never not useful. I’m a big advocate for, even if you’re not going to use it, you’re still going to need it by virtue of being in the Army.”
Throughout their four days at Fort McCoy the Soldier medics of the 409th MCAS utilized the electronic skills trainers at the simulation center here as well as the zero and qualification ranges to ensure each Soldier was able to qualify on their individually assigned weapon, a requirement for a mobilizing unit.
“The value of training, as far as at Fort McCoy, in in the repetition,” said Staff Sgt. Kristopher Custer, a medic with 409th MCAS. “Some of these Soldiers need to do it regardless. Some of them will get to do it an extra time when we’re MOBing. Some of these things we don’t really get the opportunity unless we’re MOBing.”
Once they arrive in theater, the 409th is scheduled to run operations for an aid station. This will mean providing a full spectrum of immediate care and support for service members and others at the facility.
“I think it will be a good chance to get a lot of hands-on experience for the less experienced medics,” Werlinger said. “There is a good culture of mentorship in this unit, in that some of the more experienced individuals will take the less experienced ones under their wing. I think this will be a really, really good chance for a lot of other Soldiers to gain ground.”
For many of the Soldiers this will be their first mobilization and can create a feeling of nerves. Custer, who previously deployed with the 1st Infantry Division in 2011 to Khost Province, Afghanistan, is working to help the Soldiers understand what to expect.
“The biggest thing is managing expectations,” he said. “Some of these Soldiers, if they’ve never gone they don’t know what they don’t know and they don’t know what it’s going to be like. Even for me, deploying with a combat arms unit in 2011 to Khost Province, Afghanistan, is a widely different experience than what we’ll be doing this time.”
With every mobilization, Soldiers will set goals, both professional and personally. Werlinger said he’s hoping to have time to continue working on his pre-med degree from University of Wisconsin-River Falls. For Custer, he’s using this mobilization as a chance to prepare for life when he returns and improve continue his professional military education.
“I want to save up the money to remodel my kitchen and any time can get PME or military education knocked out, being able to dedicate more time to doing that is always a plus,” he said. “For me, that’s prime opportunity to do these things.”