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Army Reserve Soldiers Hone Combat Skills
by U.S. Army Reserve Sgt. 1st Class Brent Powell
October 25, 2019

More than 200 Army Reserve Soldiers from across the nation conducted a variety of combat related training at Fort Mccoy, Wisconsin in August 2019 in an effort to hone their individual and collective skills and increase their overall battlefield lethality and survivability.

The Soldiers were from the 450th Chemical Battalion, 209th Regional Support Group, 76th Operational Response Command and their two-weeks of training here is part of Combat Support Training Exercise 86-19-04.

The annual exercise provides Soldiers with an austere, realistic, tactical environment to achieve, improve and sustain critical pre-mobilization readiness.

After arriving and going through a reception and integration process, the Soldiers soon found themselves in the field where they began performing around the clock missions. “We conducted dismounted and mounted reconnaissance, as well as operational and thorough decontamination operations,” said Lt. Col. Robert Guinn, commander, 450th Chemical Battalion. “We’ve also worked on our base defense plan, employed our quick reaction force and learned how to become better at our field craft and battlefield survivability.”

August 20, 2019 - Army Reserve Private 1st Class Nicholas Kent, a chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear specialist and native of Mena, Arkansas assigned to the 360th Chemical Company, 450th Chemical Battalion, 209th Regional Support Group, 76th Operational Response Command keeps an eye out for "enemy" movement from his fighting position at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin during Combat Support Training Exercise 86-19-04. (U.S. Army Reserve photo by Sgt. 1st Class Brent Powell)
August 20, 2019 - Army Reserve Private 1st Class Nicholas Kent, a chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear specialist and native of Mena, Arkansas assigned to the 360th Chemical Company, 450th Chemical Battalion, 209th Regional Support Group, 76th Operational Response Command keeps an eye out for "enemy" movement from his fighting position at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin during Combat Support Training Exercise 86-19-04. (U.S. Army Reserve photo by Sgt. 1st Class Brent Powell)

“Our biggest challenge has been the high operational tempo of conducting back to back missions, but our Soldiers have performed well, and it just goes to show me how resilient they are,” said Staff Sgt. Jose Diaz, platoon sergeant and native of Half Moon Bay, California, assigned to the 308th Chemical Company, 450th Chem. Bn. “With the whole concept now of moving our operations from one area to another, we’ve been getting good experience conducting site reconnaissance, setting up fighting positions, sleeping areas and our tactical operations center. I think this training has definitely been a benefit to the Soldiers and a good learning experience.”

One Soldier who seemed to be enjoying the training was newly assigned Private Cory Beckes, a chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear specialist and native of Norman, Oklahoma, assigned to the 308th Chem. Co., 450th Chem. Bn. “It’s been good training for me,” he said. “I learned how to build a proper fighting position out here and how to manually operate a water pump. It was also the first time I got to use night-vision, and that was pretty cool.”

Honing basic warrior skills was just one of the many benefits to the units participating. “This exercise brings us together collectively and allows us to work closely with our down trace companies,” said Guinn. “We get to know each other’s strengths and weaknesses much better in an exercise like this than we would at a typical battle assembly. This is really where Soldiers improve their skills.”

Improvement was something many involved in the exercise noticed. “The Soldiers have been getting better each day as they conduct rehearsals and go through the various missions,” said Sgt. 1st Class Susan Bowen, an Observer, Controller, Trainer (OC/T) and native of Tiverton, Rhode Island, assigned to the 4th Calvary Regiment. “Their setup and personnel organization for the decon missions has gotten better and more proficient as they’ve progressed through the training.”

August 20, 2019 - Army Reserve Soldiers from the 450th Chemical Battalion, 209th Regional Support Group, 76th Operational Response Command and Army National Guard Soldiers from the 111th Multifunctional Medical Battalion remove casualties from a Blackhawk helicopter and move him to a decontamination area during training at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin during Combat Support Training Exercise 86-19-04. (U.S. Army Reserve photo by Sgt. 1st Class Brent Powell)
August 20, 2019 - Army Reserve Soldiers from the 450th Chemical Battalion, 209th Regional Support Group, 76th Operational Response Command and Army National Guard Soldiers from the 111th Multifunctional Medical Battalion remove casualties from a Blackhawk helicopter and move him to a decontamination area during training at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin during Combat Support Training Exercise 86-19-04. (U.S. Army Reserve photo by Sgt. 1st Class Brent Powell)

Guinn also noticed the improvement. “The Soldiers have definitely gotten better since arriving,” he said. “They are highly-motivated and eager to show me their fighting positions and what they are doing to help protect the unit and their fellow Soldiers. They are also very proud of what they can do technically out here.”

Whether it was running a chemical decontamination mission or learning the proper way to build a fighting position, the Soldiers seemed to either learn new skills in the exercise or hone their existing knowledge.

“I think this exercise has shown our Soldiers where they are in their basic Soldiering skills and their fieldcraft,” said Guinn. “They can also see how they’ve improved since they’ve been here, and what areas they still need to focus on to become the best they can be and survive on today’s battlefield. My main goal out here was to focus on the commander’s training objectives and I think we achieved that. There is still room to grow, and I think there should be.”

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