Date: July 30, 2010
By Spc. Alyson Berzinski
112th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
Soldiers around the country are learning about the Wisconsin National Guard's award-winning regional training center at Fort McCoy.
The 426th Training Regiment, a major subordinate command of the Wisconsin Army National Guard, operates the 426th Regional Training Institute - a professional learning and career advancement facility housed in the Wisconsin Military Academy.
"Our mission is to plan, resource, and execute uncompromised training in a full-time facility," said Maj. Gary Thompson, the 426th Regiment administrative officer and assistant operational officer.
The 426th trains future leaders through its Officer Candidate School and Warrant Officer Candidate School. Along with these schools, the 426th also provides education for the basic field artillery and basic emergency medical technician Military Occupational Specialty qualifications and noncommissioned officer education system, truck driving, infantry, combat lifesaving and other courses.
"We have really evolved from the Wisconsin Military Academy Officer Candidate School to a full-fledged regional training institute," said Col. Kenneth Koon, commander of the 426th Regiment and commandant of the Wisconsin Military Academy. "I see it continuing to expand."
The regiment is broken down into two separate battalions - the 1st Battalion Field Artillery and the 2nd Battalion Modular Training.
The field artillery battalion is a joint school house with the active duty artillery school at Fort Sill, Okla. Last year, the 426th's Field Artillery School House was named an Institution of Excellence after scoring more than 95 percent on their accreditation. Koon said the 1st Battalion, which focuses on towed artillery as well as forward observers and fire direction centers, conducts about one-third of all artillery school training for National Guard Soldiers across the nation each year. The battalion also provides live-fire exercises for its artillery non-commissioned officer courses.
Koon envisions the regional training institute program nationwide opening enrollment to active component Soldiers, which would be attractive due to a more compressed training schedule as well as closer training facilities in some cases. A potential risk, he noted, would be that the active component would fill most of the RTI school openings.
The Modular Training Battalion provides a variety of training for Soldiers, including large truck driving, emergency medical technician, infantry, state priority training for mobilizations, combat lifesaver, fitness training and master resiliency training. The 2nd Battalion's Basic Noncommissioned Officer Course has also been named a Center of Excellence, Thompson said.
The 426th Regiment is in the process of implementing a four-phase plan to create a third battalion dedicated to state priority training missions, which would in turn provide the 2nd Battalion greater opportunity to focus on military occupational specialty courses. Thompson said the four phases include selecting battalion staff, building programs around that staff, developing new simulator training and obtaining training space.
"We're thinking about what the Army needs to do next and applying it now," said Thompson about implementing a new battalion.
Koon said the 426th continually seeks to maximize its resources by integrating as many assets as possible, as well as making assets available. One of three Humvee Egress Assistance Trainer (HEAT) devices will be mobile so the 426th can provide this training opportunity at unit locations across the state.
"We're able to do live, virtual and constructive training and give that Soldier a full-bodied training experience," he explained. "A plethora of experiences builds confidence."
Each year the 426th plans their course calendars based on the availability of instructors and classroom seats. The training is put together in such a way that the courses will occasionally combine to conduct practical exercises and use each other's training skills for qualifications, said Thompson.
"Our goal is to train the squad as a weapon system," Thompson said. "So every time they act, it's as a team."
Additional long-range plans for the 426th include an enclosed live-fire range next to the Wisconsin Military Academy, and developing training packages that suit particular missions which require numerous skill sets.
Since Fiscal Year 2009, the 426th Regional Training Institute has assisted in the MOS training of more than 3,500 Soldiers. The students are not just from one state of region - they come from all over the world for training, Thompson said.
"The vision for the 426th Regiment RTI is to continue growing, looking toward the future," he said. "We keep looking for trends in how we train and what we're training in order to move forward."