Running a range is serious business.
The first priority is safety, followed by ensuring units that visit the range sharpen their combat marksmanship.
U.S. and Coalition forces who have been to Maholic Range know it's a topnotch range and the person running it has their best intentions at the forefront. In fact, the Area Support Group-Afghanistan (ASG-A) Range Officer Stephen Eger has a bevy of awards and recognition as a testament to his dedication.
Managing four small arms weapons ranges and seven test fire pits, Eger serves as a subject matter expert for weapons and a tactical consultant for the U.S. and Coalition Warfighters. Seven days a week, he provides realistic weapons training, familiarization and qualification for 1,388 mission units that involved 55,520 Warfighters expending over more than a half-million munitions during 16,656 training hours.
During his two-year deployment, he was named Employee of the Month, received multiple certificates of appreciation from U.S. and Coalition forces, the Foreign Service Medal Commanders Award for Civilian Service, and more than 100 unit coins. He deployed to Afghanistan with the Department of Defense Expeditionary Civilian Program.
"Eger is undoubtedly one of the most motivated employees I've ever worked with," said Dr. Ray Fernandez, a retired sergeant major and the ASG-A director of Plans, Training Mobilization and Security. "He is wholeheartedly committed to the Warfighter. His passion, expertise and understanding of range operations, weapons and tactical training is unmatched. His sole goal has been to ensure our Warfighters had the training they needed to stay alive and conduct missions successfully when they went outside the wire."
While ASG-A leadership lauds Eger for going above and beyond the call of duty, he said serving as Bagram Airfield's range officer was an honor and one of the most humbling accomplishments of his career.
"It is our Warfighters who are the heroes, who are making the sacrifice for our nations," said Eger. "I'm simply supporting them by providing a safe, controlled environment where they can sharpen their combat edge."
For the Warfighters, however, it isn't simple. It's a life-or death necessity.
U.S. Marine Gunnery Sgt. Matthew Flood, operations chief for 0570 GLT ROTO 8, said if his troops didn't have the top-notch training Eger provides at the range, "our guys would not be able to zero their weapons or set up their gear in a way that is combat effective. What this means in the real word, is that if these Marines were to engage in combat, there is a possibility that their weapons would not impact the threat they are aiming at, reducing the possibility of eliminating the threat and heavily increasing the possibility of casualties."
Flood's unit provided the security and defense of Bagram Airfield and conducted daily terrain denial patrols.
Eger, who will redeploy to his position as range safety officer at Fort AP Hill, Virginia, was instrumental in designing and executing significant enhancements at Bagram Airfield's Maholic Range Complex. These enhancements include upgrades that now allow service members to test fire medium machine guns that are mounted on every vehicle that goes outside the wire on patrols. This enhancement was the first in Maholic's 18-year history.
"For months, we had been patrolling with these weapons systems and have had no idea where they were impacting because we had not been able to fire them," explained Flood. "These are the weapons we use in a combat situation to provide cover fire and over-watch for the guys advancing towards the threat."
Among his many accomplishments, Eger provided oversight of live and night fire training events and was on 24-hour recall, seven days a week. He designed and implemented plans to improve the safety and capabilities of the range. Some of his projects include the addition of firing lanes; repair of impact berms, which increased troop utilization from 65 to 95 percent; addition of generator light sets which vaulted the range to a 24-hour operation; the development and construction of training enablers like walls, barricades, windows, doors and stationary and portable target stands for more realistic training.
Eger credits ASG-A leadership with providing him the opportunity to excel and support the Warfighter, and called his service in Afghanistan one of his proudest accomplishments.
"The units that conduct patrols outside of the T-walls are the only thing between us and the bad guys trying to get in," said Eger. "It was truly a pleasure, every day, to facilitate their training."