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Massachusetts Army National Guard is first in the Nation to field new environmentally protective copper ammo at a training site 
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- A Massachusetts National Guardsman engages targets on the environmentally-friendly Sierra Range 

A Massachusetts National Guardsman engages targets on the environmentally-friendly Sierra Range at Camp Edwards, Mass., on July 8, 2012. (Photo by Mr. Mark J. Begley)

By Capt. Glen Kernusky, Camp Edwards Public Affairs 

- The Massachusetts Army National Guard has fielded new copper ammunition on the Massachusetts Military Reservation, Cape Cod, here making it the first National Guard training site in the country to use the environmentally protective ammunition. 

The Massachusetts National Guard pursued the use of the ammunition to be able to return to live fire on the newly renovated Sierra Range, a Modified Record Fire pop-up target range.  The range was officially opened for use on July 8.  

The copper bullet is non-toxic ammunition recently fielded by the Army for combat operations. This important accomplishment gives Camp Edwards nearly a full complement of small arms range training needed to prepare Soldiers for deployment. Soldiers previously had to travel to other training bases to qualify on pop-up target ranges, cutting into precious training time.

The Department of the Army agreed to set aside a supply of the copper ammunition for Camp Edwards due to its location in an environmentally sensitive area.   The base’s northern training area is also home to the Upper Cape Water Supply Reserve; approximately 15, 000 acres of protected land with a globally threatened habitat that sits atop a drinking water supply for the surrounding communities. 

Sierra Range is required to train and test individual Soldiers on the skills necessary to identify, engage, and defeat stationary infantry targets for qualification requirements with the M-16 and M-4 series rifles.  Typically, U.S. Soldiers conduct rifle marksmanship qualification on firing ranges featuring targets that pop-up from behind an earthen berm and drop back behind it once hit or after a delay of several seconds. The main difference between Sierra Range and other pop-up qualification ranges is that it is designed to utilize the copper ammunition that replaces the usual lead bullet with a steel-tipped copper bullet. 

“Sierra Range is designed so that Soldiers deploying will get the right type of training and qualification,” said 1st Sgt. Earl F. Eldridge, the Camp Edwards Range Control Operations Sergeant.

This type of ammunition also has a much higher velocity than standard ammunition, necessitating enhanced protective measures. Consequently, the 70 berms on the range are higher and thicker than usual in order to stop the faster bullets from straying outside the range area. The Massachusetts National Guard is committed to safeguarding personnel and the environment while also maintaining the high quality training needed for service members, and the Sierra Range has been specifically constructed to do that.

“Camp Edwards is the first National Guard facility in the country with this type of range,” said Eldridge.

India Range has also been recently approved for use with the copper ammunition.  It is a Basic 25-Meter Firing Range used to train individual Soldiers on the skills necessary to align the sights and practice basic marksmanship techniques against stationary targets. 

Aiding in the effort to bring copper ammunition to Camp Edwards was the Massachusetts National Guard’s Environmental & Readiness Center.  The Center’s mission is to aid in fielding new training facilities and improvements at Camp Edwards by overseeing one of the most extensive land management programs in the region and managing the regulatory approval process.   Working with Massachusetts National Guard Joint Force Headquarters, Range Control, Camp Edwards Headquarters, and Facility Engineering; the Environmental & Readiness Center facilitated the return to live fire on Sierra and India Ranges by developing a Management Plan and Standard Operating Procedure in coordination with state and federal environmental regulators.

“The next range we will focus on will be Echo Range, a pistol qualification range,” said Mike Ciaranca, Deputy Director of the Environmental Readiness Center.   “This range will benefit our state’s mission as it will allow military police and officers to qualify as required.  We have great potential here at Camp Edwards to have an exceptional training site while still protecting our environment.”