Operation Cold Steel: more vehicles, weapons, firepower
By Debralee Best October 17, 2017
FORT MCCOY, Wis. -- For the U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers participating in Operation Cold Steel II, which kicked off Oct. 12, 2017 at Fort Hunter Liggett, California, the exercise served as more than just a routine crew-served weapons qualification and validation exercise. For these troops, the exercise reaffirmed their ability to train and deploy on short notice and bring combat-ready and lethal firepower in support of the Army and its allies anywhere in the world.
The second iteration of the operation is planned for a larger scale, both in locations and in the number of Troop List Units, running from Oct. 12, 2017 to Aug. 31, 2018 at Fort Hunter Liggett; Fort McCoy, Wisconsin; Fort Knox, Kentucky; and Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, with approximately 3,800 crews of 10,000 Soldiers from across the Army Reserve conducting mounted and ground crew-served weapons qualification.
"OCS II is far larger and more ambitious than OCS I owing to three main factors: it has been expanded to include collective live fire; it has been synchronized with (Combat Support Training Exercises) to provide trained gun and vehicle crews at specific times and it is being conducted at four installation over the course of (fiscal year) 18," said Maj. Ryan Gore, Task Force OCS II operations officer-in-charge.
During the months of April and May, 2017, an estimated 1,800 Army Reserve Soldiers from approximately 60 Army Reserve units participated in the U.S. Army Reserve Command's inaugural Operation Cold Steel, hosted by the 84th Training Command. The purpose of Operation Cold Steel was to create a more deployable, combat ready and lethal fighting force within the Army Reserve by training and qualifying participating units on the crew-served weapons within the Army arsenal.
More than 450 weapons crews were trained and certified over the seven-week duration of OCS. The exercise executed crew-served weapons platform qualifications through multiple 12-day rotations, with Soldiers qualifying on Mark 19 40 mm grenade machine gun, M240B machine gun and M2 machine gun weapons systems.
The first Operation Cold Steel was a successful proof of principle, concluding with a qualification rate of 93 percent.
The 84th Training Command, through TF OCS II, will provide oversight of each executing agent unit conducting the training. Task Force Coyote will be led by the 79th Theater Support Command, at Fort Hunter Liggett, from October to December, 2017. The 416th Theater Engineer Company will lead Task Force Triad at Fort McCoy from February to May 2018. The 377th TSC will head Task Force Bullion and fire at Fort Knox, March to May 2018. U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command (Airborne) will lead Task Force Ultimate and conduct gunnery operations at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst from July to August 2018.
"Specifically, it will focus on crew-served weapon and platform qualification as well as collective live-fire training to enhance the readiness of selected units. Additionally, it provides a platform for Soldiers to be trained as Vehicle Crew Evaluators and gain practical experience so they can effectively preform in this capacity at their units," said Gore. "Finally, it teams newly-trained Army Reserve Master Gunner Common Core graduates with seasoned active-component Master Gunners to build the bench that will enable units in the Army Reserve to conduct gunnery autonomously at the unit level in the coming years."
According to Gore, this combination of training is designed for units to become self-sufficient in completing this training on their own.
"We at OCS II are trying to work ourselves out of a job," said Gore.
At Triad and Bullion, U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers will train and qualify on the MK-19, M240B, M2 and M249 light machine gun weapon platforms mounted to various military vehicles, including Humvees, Medium Tactical Vehicles, Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Trucks, and Heavy Equipment Transports. Crews at Bullion will feed into a Bridge CSTX, providing trained gunnery crews for the exercise. At Coyote and Ultimate, Soldiers will conduct ground training and qualification with the weapon platforms.
Ultimately, the goal of OCS at all locations is to improve the readiness within the Army Reserve to deploy and fight in any contingency.
"Operation Cold Steel is a training event that helps to ensure Army Reserve units and Soldiers are trained and ready to deploy on short notice and bring combat-ready and lethal firepower in support of the joint force anywhere in the world," said Col. Phillip A. Taylor, TF OCS II commander.
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