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November 23, 2012

Environment

ITAM program ensures long-term use of realistic maneuver areas

Story & photo by Geneve N. Mankel, Public Affairs Staff

Maneuver training areas cover the majority of Fort McCoy’s 46,000-plus acres of training land.

The Integrated Training Area Management (ITAM) program, which is part of the Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security (DPTMS) Range Branch, works to ensure the long-term viability of Fort McCoy maneuver areas, said Brent Friedl, Fort McCoy ITAM coordinator.
PHOTO: Personnel with the Land Rehabilitation and Maintenance section remove woody debris. Photo by Geneve N. Mankel
Personnel with the Land Rehabilitation and Maintenance section of the Integrated Training Area Management program remove woody debris from the new Unmanned Aerial Site at Fort McCoy’s North Post.

It does this through monitoring land conditions and conducting land rehabilitation and maintenance projects.

Conservation-management and environmental-stewardship principles are always considered when managing and sustaining McCoy maneuver training areas, Friedl said.

ITAM is a core component of the Army’s Sustainable Range Program (SRP), said Friedl.

Sustaining training lands is important because factors such as encroaching communities, changes in training requirements, and natural processes can affect the condition of the land, Friedl said. If the land is in poor condition, the quality of the training can be affected.

Damage to training lands can result in a loss of available training-land acreage, a decrease in realistic training, creation of safety hazards, increased maintenance costs, loss of vegetation, and the spread of invasive plants.

“It’s important to offer safe, realistic and diverse training areas that will test units’ abilities to plan, recon, and conduct operations,” he said.

PHOTO: The Land Rehabilitation and Maintenance section completed Fort McCoy’s first low-water crossing obstacle earlier this year. Photo by Geneve N. Mankel
The Land Rehabilitation and Maintenance section of the Integrated Training Area Management program completed Fort McCoy’s first low-water crossing obstacle earlier this year.

Friedl said ITAM uses a comprehensive planning process to create realistic maneuver areas, such as planting farm fields to simulate in-theatre agricultural crop lands, creating varied avenues of approach that cause troops to negotiate lands with a tactical mindset, ensuring just enough natural cover and concealment is available throughout the training areas and near high-use sites such as firing points, and much more.

“The overall goal is to support the installation’s training mission,” Friedl said. “But we also have to meet land-stewardship requirements.”

Environmental and cultural resources rules and guidelines always are taken into account when training-land projects are considered, Friedl said.

Training-land projects are coordinated between the ITAM and other installation organizations, such as the Training Division and the Directorate of Public Works Natural Resources Branch, to ensure McCoy meets training mission capabilities and continues to support diverse vegetation, wildlife and protection of cultural resources, Friedl said.

“We act as a bridge between the Environmental and the Training Divisions to make sure a balance is worked out between environmental and training requirements,” he said.

Specifically, the ITAM’s Training Requirement Integration section is responsible for coordinating with other land-management organizations at the installation, such as the Natural Resources Branch, about training requirements and gives input on how all parties involved can come to resolutions about how training lands are best managed.

The condition of McCoy training lands is measured by the Range and Training Land Assessment (RTLA) crew, a component of the ITAM program.

RTLA monitors, assesses and documents land conditions and disturbances, Friedl said. Its findings help the installation determine how training lands are impacted and how they can be enhanced.

Disturbances to land can be manmade or caused by factors such as land erosion, plant community succession, storms, tree diseases, etc., he said.

When maintenance, reconfiguration or repair projects for training areas are identified by RTLA, the Land Rehabilitation and Maintenance (LRAM) crew, another ITAM component, executes the field work.

LRAM projects can include routine clearing and thinning of areas to allow access, smoothing out excessive ruts, repairing washed-out trails, and re-vegetating heavily disturbed sites, Friedl said.

This winter, for example, LRAM plans on shredding 300-450 acres of encroaching shrubs/trees and woody debris to maintain maneuver areas and trails.

Other projects recently completed or currently in production include clearing woody debris at the new Unmanned Aerial Site, adding topsoil and leveling simulated farm fields in training villages, completing the installation’s first low-water crossing obstacle, and managing areas affected by oak wilt.

ITAM also educates personnel training in the field through its Sustainable Range Awareness (SRA) component, Friedl said. The SRA develops and distributes educational materials to users of training lands to avoid unnecessary damages to the land.

“Units are educated on things like how to avoid fuel spills and how to dispose of hazardous waste,” Friedl said. “The materials are produced with input from the Environmental Division and other applicable offices on post.”

The SRP Geographic Information Systems (GIS) program is a support element of the Army SRP program, Friedl said. The ITAM uses data gathered by the installation GIS program to manage training areas and ranges and to create products such as maps and environmental overlays.

The ITAM program recently was restructured and went from being exclusively a contractor supported operation to being a mix of Department of the Army civilians and contractors from CALIBRE of Alexandria, Va. and REK Associates LLC of South Riding, Va.

For more information, call 608-388-6257.

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