In-depth look at chemical training at Fort McCoy

Local News

FORT MCCOY, Wis. (WLAX/WEUX) – More cleaning and sanitizing practices are in place to help slow the spread of COVID-19. However, decontaminating is something the Army has always done when it comes to chemicals and nuclear remains. First News at Nine’s Hayley Spitler attended a training drill at Fort McCoy and learned what roles various soldiers fill.

Thursday marked the second mission of three at Fort McCoy for the 318th chemical company. The mission is a chemical training simulation in which soldiers work to clear contaminants, including biological, nuclear, radiological, and chemical.

Sgt. Ashlea Dixon, Army Reserve said, “If you don’t decontaminate your site properly or the vehicles, then you’ve contaminated everybody else around you. So, we have to make sure everything is decontaminated; the equipment, the roads, the troops, just so everybody is protected.”

The training breaks the platoon into different teams at various stations. The goal is to create muscle memory with adjustments where needed, similar to running a basketball drill. 1st Lieutenant Shelby Hensley who has been in the Army for 8 years is in charge of the training.

Hensley said, “It is an amazing feeling. It’s actually very humbling because as you grow as a leader you don’t really consider how much of an impact you can have until you see where it’s actually occurring.”

Hensley explains that the hope is the unit won’t be activated, but to be prepared when they are needed. However, it’s a good feeling to be able to restore people back to their missions.

“We’re able to execute decontamination, so getting the nasty stuff off of equipment and people so that we can get people back to the fight faster and more efficiently and safely,” said Hensley.

The company doing the simulation is from Alabama and it’s their first-time training together since the pandemic hit back in March.

Hensley said, “A lot of us were coming from 22 different states. So, I’m from California, my unit is based out of Alabama and we have soldiers coming from everywhere.”

As a result of the pandemic, Fort McCoy has added new protocols including temperature checks, face coverings, hand washing stations, and limiting the number of soldiers in sleeping quarters. For sergeant Ashlea Dixon, the chemical training is great hands-on learning.

Dixon said, “We learn more when we get out here and actually do it. Our skills get more knowledgeable and better as we go.”

Once the company masters this training, they will move onto other missions ahead of deployment.

In Fort McCoy, Hayley Spitler, First news at nine.

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