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Chapter closes for Air Force JSTO mission at Fort McCoy

May 12, 2011

By Tom Michele, Fort McCoy

FORT McCOY, Wis. -- April 22 marked the end of Airmen coming to Fort McCoy to receive specific, in-theater mobilization training prior to deploying in support of overseas combat contingencies, specifically in Iraq and Afghanistan.

It was mission complete for the U.S. Air Force administrative support staff at Detachment 7, 602nd Training Group, Second Air Force, at Fort McCoy. A few days earlier, the last Joint Sourcing Training Oversight (JSTO) class completed its mobilization training, departed for their individual home stations and their deployments to Operations New Dawn (OND) and Enduring Freedom (OEF) missions.

Fort McCoy statistics show 10,597 servicemembers completed JSTO mobilization training at Fort McCoy from Fiscal Year (FY) 2005, the first year JSTO training was provided, through FY 2011. That includes several hundred Navy and 40 Coast Guard personnel.

It was a very successful operation, Air Force Maj. Laura King said. King served as the detachment commander for the unit's final months at McCoy. "Airmen learned combat skills not traditionally taught to Airmen. They trained on large-caliber weapons, up to the M2 .50-caliber heavy machine gun, and the newer mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles. They went through convoy and base-defense training."

"It was all very important so the Airmen could survive in a combat area and provide the combatant commander with the best-trained personnel possible," King said. "The JSTO program has been great for the Air Force. It will continue at Fort Polk, La., Camp Atterbury, Ind., and Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J. The McCoy JSTO program now moves to Fort Bliss, Texas."

"The purpose of the JSTO program is for both the Army and the Air Force to know what each service's capabilities bring to the fight," King said.

"We appreciate the tremendous support from the Fort McCoy garrison and the 181st Infantry Brigade who bent over backwards to help us. They were very responsive providing training for us. They assisted the Air Force in providing fully capable Airmen to the combatant commanders in Operation New Dawn and Operation Enduring Freedom. The Air Force and the Army are charged with taking care of our Airmen and Soldiers to ensure they are fully trained and cared for and capable of performing their missions. I am absolutely proud of the skills the Air Force learned and the very valuable lessons at Fort McCoy to prepare Airmen for combat."

Three Airmen from the final JSTO class provided some of their views.

Lt. Col. A.J. Bischoff, commander, 21st Civil Engineer Squadron, Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., said one of the Air Force's top priorities is to join and win the fight the United States is engaged in.

"It has been very vital for Airmen to communicate, navigate, shoot and treat," he said. "Our primary purpose enables deploying teams and units to enhance team-building and leadership to go downrange," Bischoff said.

"As a commander, the training we received at Fort McCoy gives me a level of confidence that our Airmen are prepared to handle a majority of contingencies in combat situations. That also gives us a level of assurance to operate civil-engineer missions including conventional trades construction, firefighting, emergency operations and management," Bischoff said.

"The training at Fort McCoy gives us the assurance to deploy in harm's way while also performing civil engineer tasks," Bischoff said. He said he even helped support U.S. Marine operations on a previous tour.

"The personnel and instruction at Fort McCoy were extremely professional," Bischoff said.

"We had good facilities, equipment and current and relevant combat instruction. The trainers and support staffs had positive attitudes and were highly motivated. They were always smiling. Maintenance issues were rapidly fixed. We were able to use the fitness center for our unit physical fitness training."

"We want to express our thanks to Fort McCoy for the way they prepared our Airmen for combat deployment," Bischoff said. "We hope other Army mobilization stations provide the same great training for Airmen as the quality cadre, staff, facilities and support that we received at Fort McCoy."

Chief Master Sgt. Chad Brandau, 355th Civil Engineer Squadron, Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., said it was nearly 80 degrees when he arrived at Fort McCoy, but then the temperature got down to the low teens.

"We had rain, sleet and snow during some of our weapons live-fire qualification," he said. "So, we have had a full spectrum of weather. But Mother Nature was really a great training tool."

"That made us adapt as we needed to take along the proper clothing equipment to daily classes and exercises," Brandau said.

"That helped our Airmen learn to load properly for combat. The training meant we will continue our joint expeditionary training to be able to dust-off perishable wartime and warrior skills and become both competent warriors and construction craftsmen," Brandau said.

"It was vital for us to come to Fort McCoy to hone those warrior skills so we will support the war effort downrange," Brandau said. "That all made Fort McCoy special to us. Most of the Air Force doesn't have the weapons firing ranges, fleets of combat vehicles, opposing forces personnel, situational training ranges and combat-experienced observer-controller-trainers that Fort McCoy offers."

Lt. Col. Jose Rivera, 422nd Civil Engineer Squadron, United Kingdom, said, "The training we received at Fort McCoy exceeded our expectations. Our Airmen will now be much better able to execute their missions. They learned about the proper posture to perform under fire and under extreme conditions outside of their comfort zone."

"It was great training for our younger Airmen and it was the first time our junior officers could lead their fellow Airmen in combat-like conditions," Rivera said.

"Both Lieutenant Colonel Bischoff and I have had four combat tours," he said.

"The Fort McCoy training was an eye-opening experience in the joint operating environment, structure, organization, culture and vocabulary that we will be supporting the Army in in-theater."

"Airmen normally just are responsible for operations on their own base," Rivera said.

"Now we will be going outside of the wire and working on projects in the battle space. This Army training is like a life-insurance policy for your Family, as Airmen and Soldiers learn the skills and mindset of the warrior - shoot, treat, communicate, navigate - that's what it's all about."

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