Range Control does more than just schedule range use
March 23, 2012
FORT HUACHUCA, Ariz. -- There is an organization on post responsible for assuring ranges are not simultaneously scheduled for use by more than one unit, supporting various forms of training and assuring ranges are not over-used.
"Range Control is here to facilitate training, and we are here to ensure we have sustainable ranges and training areas for the indeterminate future so we will always have a place to train on Fort Huachuca," said Scott Miller, chief, Training Division, Range Control.
"We support our tenants, non-tenants, Guard, Reserve and local law enforcement, we support a whole bunch of people here, and that is basically our mission -- to support training for anybody that wants it," Miller said.
Range Control's official mission statement is: "to provide a safe and realistic training environment at all ranges and training facilities on Fort Huachuca and to provide excellent customer support for all units either active duty, Reserve, National Guard, tenant or non-tenant. To provide stewardship of the installation's environment, to include cultural and natural resources, in support of state and federal laws."
"Local law enforcement, the sheriff's department, Border Patrol, et cetera, we support them but in a … lesser role. They know that military training takes priority, but if we don't have any training going on and they want to train, they can," Miller said. "We support just about everybody."
The three main legs of the sustainably range program are range operations, range modernization, preparing for the future and ITAM, integrated training area management.
Range operations is current, what range control is doing right now; running ranges, training areas and facilities so people can train. Range modernization is looking five to 10 years in the future for the fort's ranges and training facilities -- what is coming down the road. ITAM is a separate funding stream that allows range control to repair training damage to the land.
"Inherently military training is dangerous at times, and it also tears up the land a bit so we have this funding to help repair and assess the land to make sure we are not over-using it. We can rotate units if it's used too much," Miller said. "The Environmental and Natural Resources Division has the lead on that, but because we are out here in the field all the time, we have to really watch that stuff."
Miller says one type of training that is becoming a hot-button issue is laser operations. Since unmanned aircraft systems can use lasers and since lasers are becoming more and more integrated into weaponology, Miller is getting more and more requests for laser use on ranges, and his office is in the process of developing a laser range.
"All the different factors that go into it change the situation. Lasers are fairly new to us here, so we are in the infancy steps in setting up this laser range, but it is something we need to do because it is what the future holds. And to support all of our tenant and non-tenant users that have this requirement, we have to get one set up. So we are doing that right now, over on the east range," Miller said.
The east range is less populated so range control won't have to worry about buildings and people getting in the way. They also have to have some type of backstop, so they are working with other groups on the base to designate the best place to set up the laser range, Miller said. "It is a big deal coming up in future, and it is almost finalized. It is a good feather in our cap as far as installations go. Viability for the future," Miller said.
On Fort Huachuca there are 10 live-fire ranges, and they can handle up to 50-caliber weapons. Range control is also in charge of eight training facilities and 29 training areas, which comprise about 70,000 acres.
"In comparison to other installations we are relatively small, but we have the south range, west range and the east range on the other side of Highway 90, which people often do not realize," Miller said.
He then went on to describe the training people undergo on the ranges.
"The most common is the M-16," Miller said of the weapons used. "But we get M-4, M-9 handgun, up to machine-gun range, 50 cal., mark-19, 40 millimeter grenade launcher and convoy live fire range that is three miles long and prepares people to get ready to shoot while on the move on a convoy and return fire, then get out of there. There is no artillery, tank gunnery or high explosives here because even though we have a large area, we are not big enough for those," Miller said.
"But if the Army decided we want to put an infantry unit out here, well, that would be my job to go look and see the requirements and do we have the ranges and land to support them," Miller said. The installation also has a demolition range to support the intelligence center with for forensics and to show blast effects.
"Basically what the inspectors do is multifaceted. One of the big things we do is make sure schedules do not conflict so we don't have different training going on at the same facility to make sure no one gets hurt, everyone is safe and that it's compatible," Miller said.
Range control offers an online scheduling system, RFMSS, range facility management support system for units to put requests in for a certain range, training area or facility. Then it goes to the scheduler.
The day of the event the unit must sign for their range and are required to have a range certification card, meaning they have taken the range certification class within the last year and two copies of a risk assessment.
After the unit has signed for their area, range control conducts an initial assessment. The unit then gets a hot time to start firing and must call range control every 20 minutes on the radio.
Range control also conducts an inspection at some time during the day just to make sure everything is going right while the unit is out there. When the unit is done at the range, they call to get a cold time and are given a final inspection.
"They are responsible for picking up all of their brass and leaving the area the way they found it so it is ready for the next unit," said Michael Shuford, range technician and safety officer. "It is the unit's responsibility to provide ammunition and weapons, but we build the targets," he added.
"When we are doing an inspection, we make sure they have their speed limit signs in place, designated smoking areas if they want one, along with other things," Shuford said. "We will ask them who can call a cease fire and make sure they have their risk assessment still on them."
"We are out every day, except we don't train on weekends unless a unit pays overtime," Miller said.
Civilians can only use range 3 for live fire and privately owned weapons on Saturdays and Sundays. The Sportsman Center is in charge of civilian use. Civilians must pay a small fee and supply their own targets.