FORT DEVENS, Mass. (Aug. 30, 2012) -- He had been firing rounds in training for more than 20 years as a member of the Massachusetts Army National Guard, but Staff Sgt. Ken Gelormini said he had never seen anything like the new Echo Range here.

"This is the first time anybody has fired on this range, and it's great," Gelormini said. "This is probably the best range I've ever fired at."

Billed as the newest and most technologically advanced in the Army, the $4.86 million automated record fire range opened for training Aug. 29, when Gelormini's unit, the 181st Engineer Company, put rounds down range.

"You can see all the targets, because the light reflects off them, because they're three-dimensional," Gelormini said. "It's just fantastic."

In addition to the 112 three-dimensional, fully automated stationary infantry targets, the 16-lane M-16 and M-4 day/night qualification range features a computerized tower that can produce a variety of event scenarios. Performance feedback is made available immediately to Soldiers.

"This is the first automated record fire range … with this technology, this target-control system," said Keith Jackson, Fort Devens Range Control officer. "This is the best. The targetry here is smarter than the targetry we had before."

And range maintenance will be a snap, according to Jackson.

"If the targetry has a malfunction or something, you can go down to the target -- there's a computer on it -- (and) you can push buttons and it tells you what's wrong with it," Jackson said. "Everything has quick disconnects. I can pull a spare, go down there and pop it in, hook it back up. We're back online with that … target."

The facility also includes an operations/storage building, classroom facility, bleacher enclosure, covered mess and ammo breakdown building.

"The problem with the Reserve Command is we have limited training dates, so time is our enemy," Jackson said. "Utilizing facilities like this is really saving a lot of time, where the Soldier is spending more time training than worrying about getting from point A to point B. I want everything in one area."

Jackson, an Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran who retired from the Army in 2005, knows firsthand how important it is to streamline training.

"I'll tell you, every project that we've built here has all been to enhance the training of the Soldiers," Jackson said. "My goal is … to … maximize the amount of time training."

Lt. Col. Steven F. Egan, Fort Devens garrison commander, said the new range fits perfectly with the post's mission.

"Our goal is to provide the best training opportunities, facilities and resources that we can," Egan said. "This range is another step to achieving that goal."

Maj. Gen. William D.R. Waff, commanding general of the 99th Regional Support Command, spoke about the importance of this regional training facility.

"This allows Soldiers, Marines, Sailors, Airmen and Coast Guardsmen from New England to be able to train here locally without having to go down to Fort Dix or out to someplace like Fort McCoy or some other location," Waff said. "This is real training. To be able to come out and put rounds down range and see what you're doing in real time in an automated record range like this … is as good as it gets."

You don't have to tell Gelormini and the other Soldiers of the 181st Eng. Co., who had reason to focus every time they squeezed off rounds.

"Now we're two days away," said Gelormini, "from the first day of our deployment to Afghanistan."