Students take plunge in icy water for Army cold-weather operations course at Fort McCoy
Students participated in cold-water immersion training at an ice-covered Big Sandy Lake as part of training for the Cold-Weather Operations Course Jan. 17, at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin.
Joe Ernst, a CWOC instructor, said cold-water immersion is critical to the ability to survive and operate in a cold-weather environment.
“The experience of a service member being introduced to water in an extreme-cold environment is a crucial task for waterborne operations and confidence building,” Ernst said. “For a person to fall into water in that environment, the onset of panic generally introduces itself quickly. For our service members who will be operating in an extreme-cold environment, it is a task that, if not trained for, can produce unnecessary casualties.”
The human body’s reaction to falling through ice and into frigid water starts with the mind, Ernst said.
“The shock to the system generally results in an immediate response of a heightened rate of breathing,” Ernst said. “Visual limitations (tunnel effect), confusion, and muscle tension are common reactions. The ability of a person to regain control and composure after getting in this situation is possible.”
There were 25 Soldiers who were students in the course who participated in the cold-water immersion training.
In addition to cold-water immersion training, students were trained on a variety of cold-weather subjects, including skiing and snowshoe training as well as how to use ahkio sleds and other gear.
Training also focused on terrain and weather analysis, risk management, cold-weather clothing, developing winter fighting positions in the field, camouflage and concealment, and numerous other areas that are important to know in order to survive and operate in a cold-weather environment.