By Don KramerOctober 31, 2008
FORT LEWIS, Wash. - Thank black, white and orange Taylor's checkerspot butterflies with their 2-inch wingspans for a new, realistic Fort Lewis training venue. Likewise thank the Euphydryas editha taylori, as they're also known, for helping Stryker companies to fulfill the I Corps commanding general's first priority - to train units to fight and win.
One of four known populations of the little creatures left on Earth made Range 74 their home at some point in the past.
They were allowed to mind their business until 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment operations officers started searching for new approaches for live-fire operations into the "Ranger castle" on that range.
The 2-3 Inf. commander, Lt. Col. Adam Rocke, needed his Stryker vehicles to have some running room to fire their heavy machine guns.
"The commander's intent was to get the remote weapons station, the 50 cal. stabilization system, and allow them to shoot that on the move," said 2-3 Inf. operations officer, Maj. John Walton.
There would have been room to move off the range road and approach the castle from the southeast, said Capt. Dan Threlkeld, the battalion fire support officer, until Range Control discovered the avenues of approach would have run through the Taylor's checkerspot neighborhood. Concern for the darkest subspecies of the Edith checkerspot, the threatened ones with stubby, round wings, stopped the planning in its tracks - and started the battalion leadership's brainstorming that led ultimately to "Objective Rocke" next door on Range 75.
Team Lewis came together to build the compound with the pair of 2 km. lanes leading to it in three weeks. Carpenters were finishing the houses and arranging the furniture Oct. 20 as the battalion set up its Tactical Operations Center to prepare for Alpha Company to take the maiden voyage on the lanes the next day.
The result, however, is a legacy for all combat arms units assigned to Fort Lewis.
"What we've done is build a capability on this installation unlike it's ever had before and for future iterations to come," Rocke said. "Fort Lewis now has an objective larger than platoon size. The Range 75 complex is exactly what the installation needed. This is not just for the benefit of the Patriot Battalion. Our goal was to meet our training needs, but we knew the rest of the Stryker battalions on this installation would benefit also. Range Control and Range Support plans to maintain this, continue to put money in it and build upon it and make the necessary repairs. This post will have a tremendous resource for a long, long time."
Stryker companies will now be able to conduct company live-fire and maneuver operations without traveling all the way to Yakima, thanks to a medium-sized butterfly.
Don Kramer is a reporter with Fort Lewis' Northwest Guardian.