By Mr. Mike Bowers (Leonard Wood)December 3, 2015
Training at the nearly 40 live-fire ranges on Fort Leonard Wood wouldn't take place without a select group of Soldiers and Department of the Army civilians.
They are the range safety officers or RSOs. Approximately 4,000 RSOs are certified annually on post. Certified RSOs oversee training safety that involves everything from small arms to hand grenades to bombing and strafing.
"RSOs keep Soldiers safe," said Jeffrey Cornuet, range control supervisor, Fort Leonard Wood. "These individuals are extremely important, as they are responsible for the safety of everyone participating or observing training."
Commanders have the duty to pick individuals as their unit RSO and ensure they're certified on the specific weapons and required training.
Once certified by commanders, RSOs attend training at the installation level.
Twenty-three certification courses are slated for next year, consisting of a briefing and written examination.
According to DA Pamphlet 385-63 and Fort Leonard Wood Regulation 210-14, Soldiers above E5 and DA civilians above GS5 may serve as RSOs.
"This duty should not be taken lightly," Cornuet said. "RSOs are present to ensure that training is conducted in accordance with current publications and every safety precaution is properly followed."
Of Fort Leonard Wood's 62,000 acres, more than 53,000 is considered part of the installation's range complex. That complex includes 28 small-arms ranges, three shoot houses, five demolition ranges, a bombing and strafing range, and a hand-grenade range.
This year, approximately 350,733 individuals have trained on the live-fire ranges, a number that can be deceiving, said Cornuet, who has been a range safety specialist for 12 years.
"The Range Facility Management Support System, which schedules and monitors all range complex training, tracks those trained daily. One Soldier in training can be represented 20 to 30 times, as they go through their phases," Cornuet explained.
In 11 months, more than 1.3 million individuals have trained at the range complex, Cornuet added.
The night infiltration range is "extremely challenging," since it has unique safety requirements, and the demolition ranges also command "extra attention" due to the explosive hazards, according to Cornuet.
One of Cornuet's favorite ranges is the Multi-Purpose Machine Gun Range on Range 24.
"This is one of our newest ranges and supports all caliber of small arms from 5.56 mm ammunition to .50-caliber machine guns," Cornuet said.
"The opening of this range a few years ago represented the first time that Fort Leonard Wood has been able to support a fully functioning machine gun range that is able to support M2 (.50-caliber machine gun) qualification," Cornuet said.
Range safety officers have specific responsibilities that vary for different training sites. Cornuet does have a concern when he conducts certification training.
"I never feel my students ask enough questions, since I cover a lot of material," Cornuet said.
"It is important all RSOs have a complete understanding of their responsibilities before they begin training. Range operations is here to support all training conducted in the range complex, and part of that is ensuring that everyone understands how training is conducted and what role safety plays in that process," Cornuet added.