There may be no better way to prepare for an emergency on a firing range, than to prepare to avoid one.
That’s one reason why National Guard Bureau offers Level 2 Range Safety and Range Facilities Management Support System (RFMSS) training to personnel involved in scheduling, planning and monitoring live fire training missions at military ranges such as Camp Guernsey Joint Training Center.
Twenty one Camp Guernsey staff members were among 40 soldiers, airmen and civilians from 10 states gathered for five days of training to learn how to plot the safe targeting and deployment of the Army’s various weapon systems.
Many of those students stayed another week to learn the finer points of RFMSS, the system used to schedule facilities such as firing ranges, air space, billeting and other logistical resources, and to identify any training missions that might interfere with safe use of the training area. Eleven Guernsey graduates were among 27 attendees for that class.
Steve Sellers, safety manager for the National Guard’s Center of Excellence, and lead instructor for the range safety course said the class is tough and focused on teaching students to make accurate calculations and to determine what weapons systems can be used in a training area.
“We start out with map reading,” Sellers said. “You still have to be able to read a map and determine grid coordinates and use basic drafting skills to determine if you can use a weapons system within the boundaries of your training area or if the system’s range can be shortened to keep it on post.”
The first four days were used to teach old school drafting with compasses, protractors and pencils. The last day of training involved using an automated system for determining surface danger zones students will use at their fulltime or drill-weekend assignments.
Wyoming Army National Guard Sgt. Kyle Kindle has learned a lot about plotting for artillery systems working at Guernsey’s range control, but said his experience with other weapon systems was limited.
“We’re working with a bunch of different weapons systems. It’s one of the most tedious classes I’ve ever had to do,” he said. “There is a lot I haven’t seen before.”
“It’s a lot of struggling, but it’s probably the biggest part of range safety,” said Sgt. Earl McCoy, while drafting a surface danger zone map for a Stryker vehicle system. “We’ve always had an eye on safety, but this will help. You don’t realize how big it is, the whole science of it. We’ll use it.”
Linda Dawkins is a Fire Desk operator at Camp Guernsey. She took both classes, and while feeling overwhelmed at the time, is glad she did. She feels more capable of providing a high level of customer service and better understands the big picture for her job.
“I can even see where water and gas lines are now and can tell people working on them just where they are, or if there’s a fire, I can pinpoint the grid coordinates of where it is and report that to the fire department,” Dawkins said. “I didn’t know I had all these tools available, but now I can populate certain weapons systems into the graphic fire desk and know where they can use them, and know exactly where they’re going.”
Having many of his support and safety personnel speaking the same language now is good news to Lt. Col. Joseph Huss, the camp’s operations manager.
“It’s great having a large number of people trained, both full-time and part-time, supporting the full-time staff,” he said. “Now we’ve even got three Air Force people trained from the 620th (Ground Combat Training Command) so they can now run their own ranges and support our staff. Having a fire desk operator trained and to have her understand it while she’s coordinating is important. Also, she may just come up with an ‘ah ha’ moment.”
National Guard Bureau provides these courses four times a year at various training sites around the country.