The 32-man maintenance team at Fort Bragg Range Control has transformed itself from a solely maintenance component to a construction one.
Because the installation is home to three times the number of ranges as smaller installations employees have been busy, said Wolf Amacker, Fort Bragg Range Control Officer. They established OP13 as an automatic targetry range, enabling Soldiers to also work with moving armored targets and moving infantry targets, as well as standard stationary arm and stationary infantry targets.
“What’s unique about that is that maintenance guys are not trained to do that. They are technically here to maintain the targetry we do have,” he said. “When it comes to building new ranges, that’s the Army’s job, but these guys are so capable, willing and eager to get after it, there’s nothing they can’t do.”
The men finished the work in 40 days, and moved on to their next project, building a 1,000 meter sniper range in lower MacRidge Impact Area in March.
Amacker said maintenance will transform the area from a piece of ground full of trees into a sniper range with a wall and targetry, making it the only range at Fort Bragg that can have 338 magnums fired on it and not have any surface danger zone problems.
Sam Faircloth helps oversee work as Range Control maintenance supervisor. Overall, the workers are divided into three teams of Alpha, Bravo and Charlie. There is also a direct support/general support (electrical shop) for repairs.
Faircloth said he likes the work because no two days at Fort Bragg are the same, except that they all begin about 5:30 a.m., with the men arriving at the ranges by daylight, or 6.
Work ranges from target device guys troubleshooting and completing onsite repairs to equipment operators tearing down an old after-action review building.
They’re supposed to be doing work like maintaining berms, handling erosion, replacing lane markers, installing metal roofs and painting.
But, their work is technical. For instance, because many qualification ranges are automatic and mostly run by computers operating targets in the field, the men troubleshoot communication problems between the computer and those targets.
“It could be a cable, it could be an antenna, it could be internal reception parts inside the target. It could be various things. So, our guys will go out and troubleshoot what issue it is and how to resolve that problem,” said Faircloth, an Army veteran who holds a degree in industrial maintenance and an associate’s degree in machining technology.
“An aspect of what we do here, in tune, helps the Soldier to train better for their mission.”
Faircloth is not alone.
“It’s always something different. One day we may come in, it may be smooth sailing and everything works like it’s supposed to,” said Corey Butler, a former Marine and an electronics technician. “The next day, nothing may work at all. It could be anything as far as a card or a bad wire. I just like the challenge.”
“It’s a lot of different things in it. I enjoy my work, period,” said Roger Pope, electronics technician, and National Guard veteran.
There’s always plenty of work. The average age of a dozer is 25 years, but its shelf life is 12 years. A cargo trailer is 50 years old.
The yearly budget is $495,000, far less than what’s needed to maintain machines, much less purchase new ones. Replacing a dozer costs about $500,000.
“The maintenance guys are really the unsung heroes of Fort Bragg,” Amacker said. “We have over 2,000 automated targets. Every automated target works. They check every target and every range every single day. Can you imagine how frustrating it would be for a commander to go out to a qualification range, start up the computer and it don’t work? Or in the middle of some poor Soldier’s qualification that they require for promotion, it stops working. What do we call that? That can’t happen and it doesn’t happen,” he said.
When a thunderstorm recently destroyed underground wiring at Range 30, it wouldn’t operate because the current went through the ground and killed a bunch of circuit boards. The DSGS were stumped, but maintenance personnel who have additional electrical skills were able to troubleshoot it and get it fixed, Amacker said.
“We could’ve been down for weeks easily, and they fixed it in a day.”
Floyd Hudson, director, Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security, seems to understand the value of the men in his operation.
“If you ask me who the hardest working person is at Fort Bragg, I’d pick my maintenance guys. When it’s freezing outside, they’re cold. When it’s wet, they’re wet. When it’s hot, they’re sweating. They’re out there every single day and never complain,” said Hudson, also a military veteran. “Those guys are the tip of the spear when it comes to training with the Soldiers on board. They’re right out there and they don’t get any credit, and it’s time for it.”