Ten months ago, the Army Reserve's first Modular Small Arms Range (MSAR) held its grand opening in American Samoa. The MSAR is an indoor firing range with ten 25-meter lanes. According to the manufacturer, Laser Shot Simulations, the MSAR has the capability to handle both the M4 and M9 weapon firing the standard 5.56 mm and 9 mm rounds, respectively. In addition, the MSAR has a state-of-the-art filtration system to prevent any gas or fume from escaping into the environment, while also filtering the internal air for those inside using the range.
"Since the MSAR has been open, the Soldiers of all the tenant units have been really excited, and they're always trying to request that they utilize the MSAR because of its capabilities," said Lt. Col. Alejandro Buniag, Theater Support Group, American Samoa Detachment Commander. "The capabilities of the MSAR is far above any capabilities that I would have ever expected. It's the most state-of-the-art shooting facility in the Army's inventory right now."
American Samoa is home to five Army Reserve units with over 200 Soldiers assigned, with all five units assigned to the 9th Mission Support Command headquartered in Honolulu, Hawaii.
All units in American Samoa have gone through the MSAR at least once since April.
"Some have gone through it twice. Bottom line is they want to utilize it more and more," said Buniag. "Right now, we're still in our infant phases. The Soldiers are using the real system like any standard indoor firing range. As they get more comfortable, we'll start to progress to the actual pop up range."
With new technology comes some minor challenges, and the MSAR is not immune to these setbacks.
Staff Sgt. Louis Solaita, who resides in American Samoa but is assigned with the 9th MSC G357, explains how the range operates.
"Five shooters come in, they qualify, and then one platoon will stay here and the other platoon will go out and do the mission," Solaita said. "The five people is perfect. There is one firing group in the back as coaches. After they go through their iteration, they're out, and the next group comes in."
However, the system is not capable of running at normal operations when utilized at full capacity.
"The issue is when the amount of lead in the air builds up. We get a system warning over here and things shut down," said Buniag. "This whole thing is an enclosed vacuum system. It's pressurized that all the lead particulate go down range and sets off an alert for the amount of lead in the air."
When the alert sounds, the system takes about 10-15 minutes to self-correct and the range to be operational again. More follow up is underway to ensure this setback is corrected and that the range can operate at its full capacity.
Despite some of the challenges the range may have, Soldiers have appreciated the new facility that provides the ability to train and qualify with their weapons on the island.
"It's going well. It's very useful here for our Soldiers," said Staff Sgt. Leuila Ioane, TSG Supply Sgt. and MSAR trained operator. "We don't have to fly to Oahu and leave our families behind just to train with the weapons."
The MSAR has proven to provide quality training to the Soldiers of American Samoa and continues to ensure readiness in the Pacific.
"The Soldiers love the MSAR," said Ioane. "It runs pretty smoothly. We're grateful for the opportunity to even have it here in American Samoa."