Fort McCoy deploys new training, expects increase in numbers
For the first time in nearly a decade, Fort McCoy will finish this calendar year without preparing a single soldier for deployment. The base's war-time mobilization mission ended last year.
However, that has not slowed the training numbers one bit. Fort McCoy continues to be one of the most used training sites in the country.
Officials at Fort McCoy say that's because the base continues to offer the latest training technology.
In recent weeks, the base has deployed virtual training for infantry soldiers. The equipment places a team of soldiers in a virtual mission. A visor allows them to experience the sights and sounds of combat in 3D.
"This is very comparable to Call of Duty: Black-Ops (a popular video game). As you turned your head, you turned as an avatar on the screen," said Captain Adam Kirschling, a soldier stationed at Fort McCoy.
"It was unbelievable. It was like you're in a video game body. It was pretty neat and lifelike," said Kirschling.
Virtual training technology has been around for awhile but experts say there's never been a reliable system for foot soldiers until now.
"You're saving money on fuel. You're saving money on ammunition," said Mike Borchers, a trainer on the Dismounted Soldier Training System.
"There's a lot of advantages. Plus, I'm in an environment where I don't have guys out there getting themselves hurt," he added.
The technology won't replace traditional live fire training but it does supplement it. That's why officials say Fort McCoy continues to be a popular training destination for reserve units around the country.
"You're seeing as much activity now as during the war-time mobilization," said Brad Stewart, director of Fort McCoy's plans, training, mobilization and safety.
Stewart says training numbers are projected to be 150,000 soldiers a year by 2015. That would be up significantly from the 122,000 soldier trained this last calendar year.
Reserve units can choose where they want to do their training and Stewart says many continue to pick Fort McCoy because of what the base has to offer.
"Everything you do before mobilization and those units accomplish in this environment is what sets them up for success," he said.
Fort McCoy's war-time mission may be over but it's training mission will continue and is even expected to grow.
"I expect Fort McCoy to be around for a long time," said Stewart.
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