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thedrifter
04-26-06, 07:39 AM
Lejeune eyes a gun range in Sandy Run
April 26,2006
CHRIS MAZZOLINI
DAILY NEWS STAFF

Camp Lejeune wants to build a multi-purpose machine gun range as part of its plan to replace some of the base’s antiquated training sites.

The proposed range, which would be located on 300 acres in the Greater Sandy Run Training area near Verona, will offer Lejeune leathernecks a more updated training experience than some of the base’s current machine gun ranges — many of which are as old as the base.

“The ranges we currently have on the base are what I would consider holdover ranges,” said Mark Maloney, a range development specialist at Lejeune. “Some of them were laid out in the ’40s. They have been upgraded, but they haven’t substantially changed since that time.”

The new range, dubbed “SR-8,” will allow Marines of various skill levels to train using a number of different weapons systems, from a 9mm pistol to a .50-caliber machine gun to a sniper rifle to anything in between.

According to current plans, the range will feature 10 shooting lanes that gaze out over an area blanketed with automated targets, said Maloney. Some will be stationary, capable of popping up to surprise the shooters and popping down when hit. Others will move across the range and let Marines fire at them from the firing lanes. A 400-meter road will also allow moving vehicles to practice shooting both stationary and moving targets.

“Our number one concern here is to make sure our Marines are trained for the hostile environment that they operate in every day,” he said. “This is a remarkable step forward compared to shooting at stuff on a stick.”

But the range’s biggest benefit, said Maloney, is it can be used to train all Marines to effectively fire various firearms.

“We need to train all Marines,” he said. “To the average person, a machine gun is a machine gun is a machine gun. And a Marine is a Marine.

“But it’s really not like that. Some Marines are machine gunners, then there are Marines whose primary job is something else, but who may have the duty of manning a machine gun. Obviously, you want them to be trained, but they have a lesser capability and a lesser requirement.”

The range is not yet a done deal. The base had to apply with the Army Corps of Engineers to get permission for construction because the range will impact more than 83-acres of wetlands.

Brad Shaver, an environmental specialist with the Army Corps of Engineers in Wilmington, said the base is asking for a “sizeable” impact.

“That’s a pretty big request,” he said. “They are asking for the moon, and we’ll see what they get. A lot of times they’ll start with the most they want, and then it may be whittled down somewhat.”

And while the Corps of Engineers has the final say on issuing the permit, the state Division of Water Quality must also make a determination. In addition, the Marines must prove that the work will not impact a number of other factors, such as essential fish habitats or endangered species.

Noise levels produced by the range is another issue. Maloney said all of these factors are taken into consideration when the base plans for such projects.

“We follow an environmental process that’s laid out in law and takes into account wetlands, wildlife, the impacts on other areas of the base, the noise contours,” he said. “The attempt in the whole process is to come up with a workable solution that is the best case scenario (for everyone).”

Shaver said the approval process generally takes about six to eight months. Work can’t begin on the range until a decision is made.

The Corps of Engineers is also asking for comments from the general public, and they are accepting written comments until 5 p.m. on May 15. Any person may request, in writing, that a public hearing be held to consider the application.

Written comments can be sent to Brad Shaver, Post Office Box 1890, Wilmington, NC, 28402. Shaver can also be contacted at (910) 251-4611. The public notice can be viewed at: www.saw.usace.army.mil/wetlands/Notices/2006/0600815.pdf

Contact staff writer Chris Mazzolini at cmazzolini@freedomenc.com or 353-1171, ext. 229.

Ellie