DEDEDO, GUAM --
Despite Typhoon Mawar’s destruction across the island, the ongoing enhancements at the Mason Live Fire Training Range Complex are in full swing. Throughout May to July, Marine Corps Base Camp Blaz is installing static and moving targets on two of its four ranges at the Mason range complex.
As their names suggest, automated, moving targets test the shooter’s ability to lead and hit a target moving at different speeds, and static targets hone the basic, essential elements of marksmanship. Using static and automated targets provides better marksmanship feedback to the shooter.
“This really is the next phase before the ranges can be operational,” said Robert Ledyard, MCB Camp Blaz range officer. “We’re looking forward to getting these ranges open for training which can happen as soon as this summer.”
The ranges are unique to Guam; there are no other ranges on this island or in this region that accommodate the Marine Corps training requirements. Additionally, these ranges can be used by local and federal agencies such as the Guam Police Department and the Guam Army National Guard.
“During the construction phase of the ranges, many local units and visiting agencies have shown a lot of interest in what these range capabilities bring to the region,” said Ledyard. “We are looking forward to providing the current innovative training capabilities to these units that train on Guam.”
‘Every Marine a rifleman’ is part of the Corps’ warrior ethos. Marksmanship gives the Marines the confidence and skills required for more in-depth training, like live-fire exercises and military operations in urban terrain.
“Marksmanship is the foundation of Marine Corps training,” said Col. Christopher Bopp, commanding officer of MCB Camp Blaz.
“Our job is to fight and win wars, and we must ensure our Marines and Sailors are trained to go into harm’s way in defense of this nation. We owe it to them, and we owe it to their families.” Col. Christopher Bopp, commanding officer of MCB Camp Blaz
The next phase before opening the ranges is planned for this summer, when qualified marksmen will test the targets to ensure they work properly. Specifically, each automated, moving target is flanked by sensors that relay shot information back to the shooter. The information provided by the sensors lets the shooter know if they need to adjust or maintain their aim.
“We’ve been working closely with the Guam Army National Guard to identify expert shooters to help us ensure our automated targets and their sensors are calibrated correctly,” said Ledyard.
There are only two range complexes in the Marine Corps that have automated technology. Other Marine Corps ranges require Marines to hold and walk with the targets from a secure location to simulate movement, but as the Corps’ newest range, the Live Fire Training Range Complex will have automated moving targets.
However, not all the targets are automatic; the static targets will still require Marines to ‘pull pits’ or manually lower, lift, and mark the shooter’s target.
While four of the five ranges are forecasted to be operational this summer, construction for the Multi-purpose Machine Gun Range won’t be completed until late 2024.
Theissen Training System
Photo by Gunnery Sgt. Rubin J. Tan
Theissen Training System target holding mechanisms are shown on the pistol range at the Marine Corps Base Camp Blaz Live-Fire Training Range Complex (LFTRC) on Guam, May 9, 2023. The systems will be used for the Marine Corps Annual Rifle Qualification and have the capability to provide users with a moving target. Once operable, the LFTRC will be available to be utilized by local government agencies, the Department of Defense and their partners.
Live Fire Training Range Complex Environmental Considerations- Limestone Forest
As part of the 2011 Programmatic Agreement for every acre of limestone forest developed for the relocation, the Navy and Marine Corps remain committed to restoring the same acreage of Guam’s forests. Forest restoration includes the removal of deer and pigs, protection of threatened and endangered species, and replanting of native trees. The objective is to reintroduce native, healthy trees and plants to help transform the forests back to their original biodiversity.
Specific to the Live Fire Training Range Complex, 89 acres of the 315 acres needed to build the ranges were comprised of a healthy, native limestone forest. The rest of the forest was disturbed by limestone forests and grassland. Additionally, the forests across the Northern Plateau are negatively impacted by invasive deer and pigs that prey on native plant saplings. This predation threatens the propagation of native plants and opens the door for invasive species to thrive.
To date, almost 700 acres of forest have been cleared of pig and deer, more than 900 native trees have been planted or transferred to conservation sites, and more than 40 species of rare, high-value, or federally listed plants have been grown in Camp Blaz’s nurseries. Despite Typhoon Mawar’s devastation to forests across the island, the environmental team will continue its forest restoration and conservation efforts across Camp Blaz.
Live Fire Training Range Complex Environmental Considerations - Storm Water Runoff
Bullets from training are caught by the berm built up at the end of every range and behind the targets. Each range has its own berm, which looks like a grassy hill, that was specifically built based on the range size and the type of ammunition allowed for that specific range. At the end of a three-year period, each berm will be cleaned, and the bullets will be removed and recycled.
The stormwater runoff system pretreats stormwater flowing from the range. This filtration includes limestone aggregate, geotextile fabric, PVC liner, limestone substrate, and sand. While the entire northern half of the island sits atop the Lens Aquifer, the Live Fire Training Range Complex is outside Guam's Groundwater Protection Zone, with the closest well more than two miles away and located on Andersen Air Force Base.