The Ohio National Guard celebrated the grand opening of its newest training ground at the Camp Ravenna Joint Military Training Center on July 1 with a literal bang.
High-ranking members of the guard's leadership fired the inaugural shots at targets inside the camp's new $2.8 million "shoot house."
Flanked by garrison commander Lt. Col. Ed Meade, Brigadier Gen. John C. Harris Jr., Ohio's assistant adjutant general for the Army, called the shoot house "truly one of the next evolutionary steps" in training for the guardsmen at Camp Ravenna.
"It is critical in a post-persistent conflict environment that we keep the skills of our soldiers, sailors and airmen sharp, on a razor's edge without eroding," he said.
Soldiers will use the shoot house to learn how to search and clear buildings of threats, engage in close quarters combat, respond to "active shooter" incidents and hostage situations, he said. As they do, they will learn team-building concepts, improve or keep up their physical fitness and confidence.
Harris, Ohio Army National Guard chief of staff Col. Chip Tansil, state Command Chief Warrant Officer 5 Jay Stuckman and state Command Sgt. Maj. Rodger Jones took the first shots with live ammunition inside the shoot house.
Soldiers, airmen and guests -- including law enforcement from Portage, Summit and Mahoning counties, representatives of U.S. senators Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman and media representatives -- watched the foursome quickly clear several rooms of dummy targets via real-time video projected on a screen inside the nearby After Action Report building.
The targets can be outfitted with uniforms or fake weapons and programmed to fall on the first shot that strikes them, or after taking multiple hits. Along with live fire exercises, guardsmen can "dry" fire with unloaded weapons or use plastic "simunitions" during training, guardsmen said.
The inside of the shoot house has eight rooms with steel and reinforced rubber walls to absorb gunfire, microphones and overhead cameras that can be configured to record in the dark, and speakers that can blast music, fake gunfire or voices during scenarios. Range safety officers monitor the action from catwalks above.
Adjustments during training are important because "you never know what you're going to walk into," said Capt. Ryan Edwards, of Ohio's 19th Special Forces Group.
Trainees can be provided with DVDs of their training scenario for future review. National Guard partners train for free, while other agencies such as civilian law enforcement may use the facility "with minimal incremental charges," according to the National Guard.
The facility, on the grounds of the former Ravenna Arsenal, was paid for with $2 million from a congressional supplement secured by U.S. Rep Tim Ryan. The other $800,000, for targets, cameras, computers, software and other items, was provided the National Guard Bureau and the U.S. Department of the Army.
Harris said training the citizen soldiers of the National Guard also saves taxpayer dollars -- training and equipping a part-time guardsman comes at 1/3 the cost in retirement, medical benefits and other costs associated with training a full-time, active duty soldier.
"We are coming up with creative ways to continue to deliver readiness for the citizens of the United States," he said. "That's our commitment to the taxpayers."
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