This month in Fort McCoy history: March 2020

Maj. Gen. Karen LeDoux, commander of the 88th Regional Support Command, presents World War II veteran Cliff ord P. Blaha with the Bronze Star Medal during a ceremony in Ettrick, Wis. Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Corey Beal. The Real McCoy, pg. 4, April 10, 2015.
March 26, 2020

75 Years Ago — March 1945

Because he liked Camp McCoy so well, Pfc. Harry Erbaugh Jr., formerly with the 598th Engineer Topographical Battalion at then-Camp McCoy and then stationed at the Atlanta, Ga., Ordnance Depot, asked his mother to write a poem about the post.

The poem, titled “An Ode to Camp McCoy,” was received by Col. George
MacMullin, post commander, from Erbaugh.

“Dear Old Camp McCoy, I love you. You’re the finest place I Know, With your cool and green of Summer, And your winter’s ice and snow. You’re the home of man-made thunder, And I think of you with pride, It was here we came in number, Working daily side by side. Pathways wind through scenic woodland, Upward, on through hill and dale, And as twilight gathers o’er you, Casting shadows on the trail. Trout streams flow along in summer, Shade trees at attention stand. Fish glide to and fro in in number (nature lends a helping hand). Frozen creeks and snowcapped bluff tops, Chapel spires against the sky, Home of Uncle Sam’s fine army, Where we learned to ‘do or die.’ ”

35 Years Ago — March 1985

When 113 Soldiers arrived at Fort McCoy, their objective wasn’t to train. The members of the 172nd Light Infantry Brigade (Separate), an active Army unit from Forts Richardson and Wainright, Alaska, were at the post to watch. Their primary role was to evaluate the annual training for the 205th Infantry Brigade (Separate Light).

The secondary mission was providing the brigade with active-component support and an opposing force for a field training exercise. The 172nd had these roles because the 205th is their Army Reserve counterpart.

The 172nd evaluated everything the 205th did for the entire two weeks — from the time their convoys arrived until the time the convoys departed.

The major things reviewed were training, maintaining, caring, and leading. The 172nd also provided support for annual training where personnel were brought into the field situation to advise and assist the 205th in making the training run smoother.

30 Years Ago — March 6, 1990

The cause of a March 6 fire which destroyed Fort McCoy building 1259 was called a “fluke” by post fire investigators.

According to Lt. Curtis A. Ladwig, investigator with the Fort McCoy Fire Department, the fire was caused by a malfunction of a control valve on a wallmounted, gas space heater.

The industrial-type heater was located in an office area at the north end of the building.

The fire, which was reported by a passer-by at about 10 a.m., caused $93,240 worth of damage.

Although firefighters arrived at the scene two minutes after being called, the building was completely involved with flames three minutes after they arrived. The fire was under control in about an hour.

However, Fort McCoy Assistant Fire Chief Stanley E. Bernette said wind speeds of up to 20 miles per hour made the fire difficult to fight. Bernette said another factor contributing to the extent of the fire was that the building’s metal doors were locked from the inside and could not be opened readily.

The building was unoccupied at the time of the fire. The only major piece of equipment in the building at the time was a large industrial motor for a rock crusher; it was not damaged.

20 Years Ago — March 2000

An $8,000 grant from the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) helped Fort McCoy manage its turkey habitat through timber stand improvement initiatives and prescribed burning of wildlife openings and oak savanna associated communities.

The grant came as result of a partnership effort with the NWTF-Monroe County Longspurs Chapter.

The Fort McCoy Wildlife Program, in a cooperative effort with the Directorate of Public Works Environmental Division Natural Resources Branch Forestry Program, developed the projects.

Funds were used to plan, coordinate, prepare, and implement prescribed burns and to fund a contract to remove trees and shrubs, which were competing with young oak trees.

The grant provided an opportunity for the local NWTF chapter to support these habitat projects as part of a cooperative effort. The money was raised from local banquets held throughout Wisconsin.

10 Years Ago — March 2010

A $13.364 million contract to construct the Combined Arms Collective Training Facility (CACTF) at Fort McCoy was awarded to Alacran Contracting LLC of Rockford, Ill. The CACTF, structured as a
small city, includes more than 25 buildings and related infrastructure, which trains Soldiers on urban tactics.

The contract allowed about two years to complete the construction with a
completion date of summer 2012. The CACTF includes single- and multistoried facilities in a residential area, modeled in a European style; a business area, modeled in a Middle Eastern style; and a warehouse district, modeled in an Asian style.

The buildings depicted include houses, schools, townhouses, service stations, banks, offices, a hotel, municipal facilities, police stations, jails and a power station. A tunnel and other infrastructure were also included.

A Range Operations facility and an after-action review facility was also included.

5 Years Ago — March 21, 2015

More than 70 years after his heroic actions, World War II veteran Cpl. Clifford P. Blaha was awarded the Bronze Star Medal during a surprise ceremony held by the American Legion in Ettrick, Wis., in late March 2015.

Attending the ceremony were family, friends, and members of the local
community, and Soldiers of the 88th Regional Support Command (RSC).
Maj. Gen. Karen LeDoux, commander of the 88th RSC, officiated the ceremony and said she was tremendously honored to present Blaha the Bronze Star Medal.

Helping bring to light Blaha’s story was Paul Beseler, American Legion vice
commander of Wisconsin’s 10th District.

Blaha received two purple hearts, the American Campaign Medal, the Asiatic Pacific Medal, the Word War II Victory Medal, and the Combat Infantryman Badge (CIB).

Blaha is eligible for the Bronze Star, having been awarded the CIB by virtue of Executive Order 9419. Blaha was drafted into the Army following high school on July 28, 1944. He then attended basic training at what was then Camp Hood (Texas).

He then was assigned to the 7th Infantry Division and left Seattle aboard the USS Lycoming for Hawaii, before heading to Leyte, Philippines. He later departed to be on station for the Battle of Okinawa. His unit then deployed to occupy Korea and accepted the surrender of Japanese forces
that had occupied that country.