Fort McCoy News July 25, 2014

Technicians keep Fort McCoy's training on target

STORY & PHOTOS BY SCOTT T. STURKOL
Public Affairs Staff

The thousands of targets used at Fort McCoy's 30 live-fire ranges literally live a banged-up life.

Photo 1 for target article
Bill Freeman, target systems technician, works on target equipment in a building on Fort McCoy's Range 31.

Regular maintenance is required to keep all targets working and continuously available for the more than 100,000 troops who train here each year. That maintenance is done by target systems technicians with Range Maintenance, part of the Range Management Branch of Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security (DPTMS) Training Division.

"We have more than 2,000 targets in place for training throughout the post," said Barry Schroader, Range Maintenance supervisor for DPTMS.

Target types include stationary targets used for weapons qualification, such as paper targets that are attached to a fixed target structure, and electronic target systems, to include stationary as well as moving infantry and armor targets.

Before any range is used for training, all systems are checked thoroughly, and staff members correct any problems. Schroader said the Range Maintenance staff consists mostly of technicians who carry out the maintenance of all target systems.

"We have people who work on our electronic systems that can either be hard-wired electrical systems or others that are battery powered," Schroader said. "Those who care for the non-electrical target systems will repair and build stationary targets stands as well as other range care we need them to do."

Photo 2 for targets article
Jim Sobotta (above), target systems technician with
Range Maintenance of the Directorate of Plans, Training,
Mobilization and Security, works on an automated stationary
infantry target on Range 34 on Fort McCoy's North Post.

Jim Sabotta, a DPTMS target systems technician at Fort McCoy since 2006, said the Range Maintenance team regularly receives customer feedback about Fort McCoy's well-kept ranges and well-maintained target systems.

"They are often impressed at the size and scope of what we have available here," Sabotta said. "What they don't know about is all the work that goes into keeping them well-maintained."

Schroader said many of the firing ranges have computerized target systems. These systems provide accurate scoring and depiction of a unit member's weapons skills. Many of Fort McCoy's automated targeting systems were put in place in the mid- to late-1990s. Schroader said upgrades have been continuous.

"Our target systems have kept up with the times," Schroader said. "When new types of targets come along, our team is trained in the operations and maintenance of them, and we keep them operational. We're always busy, and we're always doing what we can to make things better — it's a continuous process."

Many of the post's firing ranges can support a variety of weapon systems. At Range 34, for example, troops can train with M-4 and M-16 rifles, M-249 and M-240 machine guns, and M-107, M-110 and M-24 sniper rifle systems. And because of the multi-purpose usage, it requires more maintenance.

"Range 34 is just one of many of our ranges that receive a lot of use by a variety of weapon systems," Sabotta said. "Targets on that range are placed as close in as 100 meters and as far out as 1,300 meters, which can be used by those doing sniper training. Our job is to make sure these targets are always in proper working order and ready for use."

Through all the target systems upgrades and past heavy use, the level of range safety practiced by Range Maintenance personnel has been exceptional, Schroader said.

"Everyone has to work and communicate with each other to make sure all things are flowing smoothly and safely," Schroader said. "We do that very well here."

Schroader added the dedication of the entire Range Maintenance team shows in their support for the mission.

"Range Maintenance has people who are dedicated, hard workers who are willing to go above and beyond to support our training mission," Schroader said. "When the service members need us, we're there to help every time."

Bill Freeman, also a target systems technician, agreed. "We're here for the Soldiers — their success is our success."

For more information about Range Maintenance, call 608-388-3777.