By Aubrey LoveSeptember 1, 2016
FORT SILL, Okla., Sept. 1, 2016 -- The conditions of Fort Sill ranges are crucial to ensure Soldiers can complete their training requirements.
The maintenance of the ranges falls upon a small cadre at Range Operations.
They oversee more than 80 ranges, on 90,000 acres, with about 10,000 training events per year from more than 95 units.
Over the last few years, they have had a workforce reduction of almost 60 percent with more reductions on the horizon.
I participated in a ride along which provided an insight to range clearing.
It involved the physical inspection of the range and surrounding areas as well as a step-by-step check-list completed for each instance of range use.
"There's a formal check-in and check-out procedure and protocol that we follow. We have to keep accountability for everybody on the ranges," said Chris Hanna, Range Operations controller and inspector. "What these guys do out here is dangerous and a lot of bad things can happen. Our job is to make sure things go smoothly and assist any way we can when things do go bad."
Our whole purpose for being here is taking care of the Soldiers that use the range, taking care of the ranges and making sure the Soldiers get the required training safely, Hanna added.
Clearing a range after use is just one of the many functions of Range Operations staff.
"We occasionally find dump sites on the unused ranges and we have to deal with that as time permits," said Hanna. "Things that we can't get to right away are taken care of during the spring and fall cleanup."
Environmental and safety hazards have first priority, but sometimes there is a time lapse between identifying an issue and clearing it from the range.
"When going from one range to another for a unit check-in, we often do a quick drive through of other ranges on the way, when we can," said Hanna.
Some of the ranges are marked as off-limits for use and consequently have a lower priority for inspections.
"If someone dumps material on one of these ranges, a sportsman may find it before we do," said Hanna. "In those situations, we appreciate when that person calls it to our attention."
The process of removing items from a dump site found by chance is multi-faceted.
First, Range Operations attempts to find out who dumped the items and contacts that individual or group to provide them a "window of opportunity" to remove it.
If the person or group cannot be identified or contacted, range operations schedules removal of the trash to the appropriate destination, whether that be the landfill, recycling or other location.
In the interim, an item may sit at a location for a period of time until it can be properly disposed of.
So, finding something on a range is not because of neglect on Range Operations, but rather a situation of circumstance, said Hanna.
"We first make sure ranges that are on the schedule are clear and safe for the Soldiers. Other unused ranges take lower priority," he said.
If you notice something out of place on a Fort Sill range, call Range Operations at 580-442-6191.