Firing range to be one of most advanced in state
From Staff Reports
The Daily Times
Originally published: March 09. 2008 3:01AM
Last modified: March 08. 2008 11:38PM
The Blount County Sheriff’s Office and the Tennessee Air National Guard are partnering once again to meet a vital training need for both parties. Improvements to make the Blount County firing range one of the most advanced training range complexes in East Tennessee will begin soon.
Live-fire training and weapons qualification are paramount to the success of continuing missions of both the Guard and the sheriff’s office.
The firing range at McGhee Tyson Air National Guard Base has become substandard due to age and extensive use. The on-base facility was going to require a substantial face-lift to continue to meet the training needs of the 134th Air Refueling Wing and the base’s other units, but the site did not meet new safety restrictions by the National Guard Bureau.
The Blount County Sheriff’s Office was also looking at upgrading its training facility in order to meet ever-increasing training requirements and demands for use by local law enforcement agencies. The two entities were on a converging path, and tentatively approached each other to discuss a joint venture, something not all that uncommon.
The Air National Guard partnered with Blount County five years ago to construct a ropes challenge course, a team and personal development activity that consists of high and low elements designed to promote teamwork and build self-confidence.
The Air National Guard’s Training and Education Center, located at McGhee Tyson, required the course for training officer candidates enrolled in the Academy of Military Science. The ropes course is adjacent to the BCSO firing range, so the range improvement project was a natural fit for the needs of both parties.
Working through a Military Construction Cooperative Agreement, which allows the Air National Guard to build required facilities on property owned by others, the two sides spent almost two years planning the improvements to the range, then another year waiting for Congress to approve and appropriate funding.
Just like the ropes course, the Guard will pay for the construction of the improvements, and Blount County will own and maintain them. The agreement between the two allows for joint use of the facilities and gives the Guard priority use to meet state and federal mobilization requirements.
The improvements include installation of a bullet catch system and an electronically controlled targeting system. The targets will allow trainers to program various training scenarios for different levels of training and evaluation, while the bullet catch will collect the expended rounds into a bucket system for easy disposal. Overhead baffling will assist as a sound barrier, and help prevent ricochets and stray rounds from leaving the firing area.