U.S. ARMY DUGWAY PROVING GROUND, Utah ---For U.S. Marine Corps reservists of the 4th Light Armored Reconnaissance (LAR) Battalion, the vast remoteness of U.S. Army Dugway Proving Ground not only provides ample room to maneuver, but convenience.About 125 plus members of the 4th LAR maneuvered their Light Armored Vehicle (LAV25) across the sage-covered desert April 18, firing its 25mm chain gun, and 7.62mm machine guns, at targets between 200 and 1,000 yards. Two LAV25s at a time went forward, 100 meters apart, opening fire on a range that goes on for miles across the remote desert of northwestern Utah. For the Marines, it was liberating.At U.S. Army Camp Williams in Riverton, Utah, where Charlie Company of the 4th LAR is based, there is no room to maneuver, and firing is limited to a few hundred yards, said Gunnery Sgt. Eric Walker of Charlie Company. But 125 miles away is Dugway Proving Ground with Room to Boom: nearly 800,000 acres in one of the most remote areas of the contiguous U.S."It's the only place in Utah where we can maneuver and shoot at long distance with multiple vehicles. Otherwise, we have to go out of state," said Walker. Dugway's proximity saves time and money. To do the same maneuvering and firing, the Marines must travel to the 4th Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion's headquarters at Camp Pendleton, Calif., (700 miles) or the Orchard Combat Training Center near Boise (400 miles).The Marines arrived at Dugway the evening of April 17 after traveling fewer than three hours, slept where they trained, ate MREs and began training at dawn. "It gives us a lot of options to exercise our equipment and Marines," said Maj. Michael Grijalva, commander of Charlie Company. "The Dugway range staff has been very accommodating, to help us out with any non-standard training."Special Programs Division personnel from Dugway' s West Desert Test Center arranged the training, but it's a Team Dugway effort among government and contract employees to ensure all goes well. For the Marines, traveling to Dugway means authenticity. "It gives us the versatility to do a road march or convoy, then out onto rugged terrain, all within the confines of a weekend," Sgt. Maj. Richard Slider said.Dugway Proving Ground has no encroaching communities at its border, so the public is not bothered by noise or endangered by projectiles or shrapnel. This was especially important. The Marines fired 81mm mortars with high-explosive rounds, the wire-guided TOW missile, automatic weapons and their rifles. LAV25 maneuvering was conducted at one range, with other training 12 miles away at another approved range.For the boots-on-ground Marine, moving between these ranges heightened the training considerably.
"It's awesome," Cpl. Shayne Day said. "It's so open, and you get a feel for operations in an open environment." Cpl. Jared Cuevas, like many of his fellow Marines, has served in Afghanistan. He remarked that the weather and terrain at Dugway are very similar. A mechanic, Cuevas noted that convoying to Dugway adds vehicular authenticity."The things that happen here to the vehicles are pretty much what happened in Afghanistan," he said. "It's a very good learning environment."