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Community opens joint small arms range

  • Published
  • By Sonic Johnson
  • 14th Flying Training Wing Chief of Public Affairs
It became an historic day on May 8, 2015, when Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant came to Lowndes County, Mississippi, to officially open a new small arms range.

The range will be used jointly by Columbus Air Force Base Airmen, Lowndes County, city of Columbus and other local law enforcement departments for weapons qualification and training.

The new range is a 26-minute drive from Columbus AFB in East Columbus, just off Mississippi Highway 69.

Columbus AFB currently uses the Columbus Police Department/Lowndes County Sherriff's Office range. Located in downtown Columbus near the Detention Center, it suffers from residential encroachment which now limits night operations. In addition, a new Lowndes County Justice Court was built adjacent to the old shooting range, prohibiting operations when court is in session.

Columbus AFB also uses Camp McCain in Grenada, Mississippi, for additional training, costing $160,000 annually and removing Airmen from duty for a minimum of eight hours.

The new range is designed to solve all these operational restrictions. The 14-lane outdoor range has covered shooting stations and was designed by the Columbus AFB Combat Arms Training Manager.

There are several small differences between military and civilian ranges. For example, military ranges require wider shooting lanes that civilian ranges. Local officials designed this range to meet our military specifications.

The $1.9 million range has 14 shooting lanes, 50 meters long, and four additional lanes with 100-meter targets for sniper qualification. The 50-meter lanes have an automated bullet trap for lead containment and recovery for recycling. The training building is a 4,662 square-foot heated and cooled facility for classroom training and weapons cleaning.

This range will also allow an increased opportunity for night shooting and will reduce the number of trips to Camp McCain for defenders doing weapons training. Utilizing the new Columbus shooting range, Columbus AFB will realize an annual savings of $128,000.

The Mississippi Development Authority solicited applications from the military communities represented by the Mississippi Military Communities Council for the purpose of making upgrades to facilities improving the military value of the bases. The Link submitted the proposal to MDA and was approved for $1.2 million in state of Mississippi funding. Lowndes County contributed $322,000 in cash and nearly $106,000 in-kind services. The city of Columbus invested $203,000 in cash and nearly $74,000 in-kind services.

"The significant relationship between the local community and Team BLAZE has garnered many things essential to our success," said Maj. Brenton Pickrell, 14th Security Forces Squadron Commander. "In this case our ability to train our Airmen on a fundamental tool of our trade, our small arms."

This partnership is a concrete testimony to the community support for the men, women and mission of the 14th Flying Training Wing.

"The continuous and robust support we receive from the local community continues to awe me personally," Pickrell said.
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