July 23, 2016 –
FORT MCCOY, Wis.-- Small arms fire and exploding ordnance attacks by opposing forces are real world threats that face Soldiers in a combat theater. For Reserve Soldiers it can be difficult to simulate that environment at the unit level during monthly battle assemblies. To achieve the most realistic training possible, Reserve units teamed up with Active Army and Army National Guard units for the 84th Training Command's Warrior Exercise 86-16-03 held July 9-23, here.
Soldiers from the 320th Military Police Company, Middleton Con., had the opportunity to go through a mass casualty scenario involving live role players, aviation units and combat medics.
“This environment is great,” said Staff Sgt. Nikesha Cabrera, a squad leader with the 320th. “Probably half of my squad has never worked with medics or actually seen a black hawk [land].”
The 320th was one of 92 units from across the Army that honed their skills during the final WAREX rotation of the year. WAREX provides units an opportunity to train in tactical and combat training environments, enforces small unit leadership principals, and reinforces Army Warrior Training.
During WAREX, the 84th Training Command used a Decisive Action Training Environment (DATE) 2.1 to set the stage. DATE combines virtual scenarios with real-life role players to create an intense environment designed to encompass the training audience, test them with multiple stressors, and assess them on how they react.
According to Cabrera, her Soldiers know how to do basic warrior tasks such as call for medical evacuation, but having to do it facing the pressure and speed of a live scenario adds an extra layer of stress and gives leadership the chance to observe how the Soldiers react.
“This is the type of thing you learn in AIT,” said Cabrera. “You're supposed to continually build on that, and if you don't, it can take a few weeks to actually relearn those things and reapply it. We'd like to think that if it happens you kick in to high gear and you know exactly what to do, but it doesn't always work like that.”
According to Sgt. Michael Schreckengost, a team leader with the 320th MP Company, it's hard to get the level of training at home station that you can attain at a facility like Fort Mccoy.
Observer-controller coaches (O/CTs) are utilized to help instruct Soldiers and get them going in the right direction. Without interfering with the scenario, the O/CTs asked questions causing the Soldiers to think about the decisions they were making and how those decisions would affect the overall mission.
“Getting them out here, living in tents and grinding and sweating and being in 'the suck', it gets them into a mindset... away from distractions and they start zooming in and watching the NCO's and how things are going and they start getting engaged,” said Schreckengost.
According to Cabrera, good training in the rear translates to good skills in real world practice. WAREX is designed to provide that for units that are midway in their readiness cycle.
“Exercises like this give the Soldier-Leader the confidence they need to go to war,” said Col. William Woods, Commander of 2nd Brigade, 86th Training Division.