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Students take plunge in icy water for Army cold-weather operations course at Fort McCoy

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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.

A Soldier participates in cold-water immersion training at an ice-covered Big Sandy Lake under the watchful eye of instructor Bill Hamilton as part of training for the Cold-Weather Operations Course on Jan. 17, 2018, at Fort McCoy, Wis. The Soldier was one of 25 students in the course. 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. (Army photo by Scott T. Sturkol)

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“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.

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