Fort McCoy News Dec. 11, 2015

Work continues on upgrades to Badger Drop Zone

STORY & PHOTOS BY SCOTT T. STURKOL
Public Affairs Staff

The capabilities offered at Badger Drop Zone (BDZ) on Fort McCoy's South Post continue to grow thanks to ongoing projects managed by the Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security (DPTMS).

The open area at the 877-acre drop zone was expanded through tree removal as part of a timber sale during the 2014-15 winter.

Photo 1
Contractors with Zapata Inc., headquartered in Charlotte, N.C., work at the Badger Drop Zone on Fort McCoy's South Post as part of land-restoration efforts. Prior to completing restoration, Zapata employees removed unexploded ordnance from the drop zone.

The 250-acre timber sale and tree-removal project was coordinated by DPTMS and the Directorate of Public Works Natural Resources Branch (NRB).

"From a forestry perspective, our mission here is to serve the Army and help create training environments that help Soldiers support future missions," said Fort McCoy Forester James Kerkman with the NRB. "While we build on that training mission, at the same time, we find a balance to improve and protect natural resources of Fort McCoy."

More recently, as part of an Army Corps of Engineers project, contractors completed additional work to remove buried unexploded ordnance (UXO) at BDZ as well as remove trees resulting from the timber sale.

In the past, the BDZ was an impact area for munitions, said Range Officer Mike Todd with DPTMS Range Operations.

While the drop zone was cleared of surface-level UXOs many years ago, older UXOs located further underground need to be removed to expand use of the drop zone for additional training options.

One example would be using the area for Army engagement-area planning and practice. Engagement areas are established to provide for the massing of weapons fire at critical points on a battlefield, according to Army guidelines. Sectors of fire are established to distribute and shift fire throughout the engagement area.

Photo 2
A contractor operates a small tracked vehicle equipped with a special attachment to grind down tree stumps and branches at the Badger Drop Zone.

"(The Army) is going back to address some core competencies," Todd said. "Building an engagement area would be one of those competencies. If the drop zone is fully cleared of UXO and tree stumps, then we can engage in building this capability where a unit at the company level or higher could build an engagement area."

Building an engagement area requires digging and open space, Todd said.

"Engagement-area development is not just to put the wire and mines in there to create an obstacle belt; you are also digging in vehicle positions to make them more survivable," Todd said.

"And if you are going to do any digging at the drop zone, all that old ordnance has to be dug up and moved."

The BDZ also is used regularly by Air Force airlift units for cargo airdrop training. During large exercises, it is used for personnel drops with a limited number of people from aircraft as well. By removing more trees, units also can use the drop zone for personnel drops with more people.

"If you want to do a parachute landing of a fairly sizable force, then you need a bigger open area in the drop zone," Todd said. "We are preparing the drop zone for that capability."

For more information about training-area and range-improvement projects, call Range Operations at 608-388-5110.