Ohio National Guard opens machine gun range at Camp Garfield

.Camp Garfield in Portage Co...05-07-24...Sgt. 1st Class Kirk Deiter, prep gunner, prepares a machine gun for firing at the new Ohio Army National Guard multipurpose machine gun range...by R. Michael Semple

NEWTON FALLS — The Ohio National Guard officially opened a “first of its kind” multipurpose machine gun range at Camp James A. Garfield Joint Military Training Center with a ceremonial first shot event Tuesday morning.

The new range will be used to train and test soldiers on the marksmanship skills necessary to zero detect, identify, engage and defeat stationary infantry and armor targets in a tactical array, according to a news release from the Ohio National Guard.

Brig. Gen. Matthew S. Woodruff said the facility will be used by 90 Army units in Ohio, which amounts to 10,500 soldiers.

It also will be used by soldiers from other states.

“Having this facility at Camp James A. Garfield adds capabilities to Ohio where we can fire up to .50-caliber machine guns, we can do it both mounted and dismounted,” Woodruff said. “The capacity for the influx of soldiers and airmen and law enforcement agencies to come in and utilize our facilities here just increases our ability to connect with our communities and train our soldiers in a better way.”

Lt. Col. and Garrison Commander Shaun Robinson said five types of weapons will be used at the range — the .50-caliber machine gun, the 300 Winchester Magnum, the Mk 19 grenade launcher, the M240 Bravo machine gun and 556 squad automatic weapon.

Robinson said soldiers in the National Guard have to do training at such a range once per year.

“First you do what’s called individual weapons qualification, so just their own weapon whether it’s a rifle or handgun, they qualify in that,” Robinson said. “Then … They also qualify as part of a crew. Everyone has to qualify individually first but then they go to a crew qualification, that’s what this is.”

He said a “crew” is a minimum of two soldiers firing one weapon.

Woodruff said in past years, without the multipurpose machine gun range, Ohio National Guard soldiers had to go to other facilities out of state, sometimes as far as Michigan, West Virginia or New York, to conduct the training.

“Now, with the opening of this range, we’re able to expand our opportunities in-state, keeping our soldiers in our state, using facilities in our own state and attracting soldiers from other states who pass through Ohio to get to other facilities,” Woodruff said.

Outside of being a unique training facility, Woodruff also said the machine gun range will generate economic activity.

“The local economies, hotels, restaurants and different businesses can see an increase in revenue based on the throughput that goes through here,” he said.

Woodruff said Camp James A. Garfield could receive additional dollars from the federal government due to the increase in soldiers as well.

The facility has been in development for several years. It cost $7.6 million to build. Robinson said it was done through the U.S. National Guard Bureau’s Military Construction, or MilCon, program.

“It’s a gigantic deal,” Robinson said. “For (the National Guard Bureau) to trust us and trust our throughput and trust how we do operations enough to give us a $7.6 million asset, that was a big win for us to get that in the first place to show that we merit it and that we can produce here. Having that asset now is a big win because it puts us up there with the Camp Graylings and the Camp Atterburys and the other big state training centers. It kind of puts us on the map and makes us a destination.”

Have an interesting story? Contact Mason Cole by email at mcole@tribtoday.com. Follow him on X, formerly Twitter, @masoncoletrib


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