FORT MCPHERSON, Ga. -- Adding realism to training may increase learning, but the condition at the Fort McPherson firing range probably wasn't what the Army had in mind for realistic training environments.

"All it needed was a few burned out cars and Soldiers training for Iraq would have thought they were in downtown Baghdad," said Howard Mullen, chief of training in the U.S. Army Garrison (USAG) Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security (DPTMS).

Due to a lack of maintenance and funds, the range had deteriorated. Ivy covered the fences, paint was peeling off the walls, metal structures were rusting and targets were shot up to kingdom come.

"It was in deplorable condition," Mullen reiterated. "I wanted it to meet the standards for qualification and provide a nice working environment."

Now, thanks to the hard work of Mullen and several other post employees, that desire has become a reality.

Most of the hands-on work was performed by Mullen, along with fellow DPTMS employees Andy Knell and Marcus Simmons, and Nathan Cabin, a Reams enterprise employee who operated the heavy work equipment needed to perform several of the renovations.

"I'd also like to thank Marvin Head (chief of operation and maintence, Directorate of Public Works / Directorate of Logistics (DPW/DOL), Bobby Malone (installation transportation officer, DPW/DOL), Bob Heinzian (work leader, DPW/DOL), Reams Enterprises, Bill Powell (project manager, facility maintenance, Reams Enterprises), Paul Bunch (contracting office representative, DPW/DOL), Randall Scheffler (director, DPTMS), Col. Deborah Grays (commander, USAG), Command Sgt. Maj. Kenny S. LeonGuerrero (USAG command sergeant major) and Darwin Jefferson (chief of plans and training, DPTMS)," Mullen said. "There's no way the range could have been done without their support. It was a team effort."

Work improving conditions took about three weeks, said Knell, operation specialist, DPTMS.

Besides the visual improvements, one upgrade to the range is doubling the firing lanes to eight.

At these eight stations, Soldiers can shoot weapons with ammunition up to 7.62 mm or .30-caliber.

"We have Soldiers whoneed to train. It is our responsibility to get them qualified," Knell said of the justification for restoring the range.

The range also provides local law enforcement agencies a place to hone their skills. Currently, the Custom Border Patrol, East Point and Jonesboro police departments and the Directorate of Emergency Services staffs use the range. Military retirees also keep sharp on their marksmanship skills here.

Since the range reopened Nov. 3,2008, those who have used it have had nothing but positive feedback, Mullen said.

Among those providing rave reviews was Capt. David A. Bell, Special Weapons and Tactics Unit instructor, Clayton County Sheriff's Office.

Bell, a military veteran and former weapons qualification, close quarter battle and high risk warrant qualification instructor on Fort McPherson, came to the range Nov. 5 to take some target practice with his .40-caliber Glock pistol and Vector Arms V51 .308 pistol.

"I try as often as possible to shoot," he said, noting this was his first chance to take advantage of the new facility. "It's an outstanding improvement."

With firearms proficiency often being the difference between life and death, Bell said the new range has better targets for "better target acquisition" and is a major improvement in keeping his skills sharp.

Although much has already been done to upgrade the range, more work is planned. Mullen said current, short-term projects include adding mulch to the dirt on the range to decrease erosion and adding a privacy screen to the fence.

Future, more long-term, plans include adding training aids to the classroom portion of the range to help Soldiers hone their basic marksmanship skills before firing live ammunition, and eventually adding an electronic skills trainer, a state-of-the-art electronic simulator used by the military that can simulate a range or other war-time scenarios, like maintaining a checkpoint or convoy operations.

"The goal is a first class facility where Soldiers would want to come to train," Mullen said.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16