Federal, state and local leaders gathered Friday at the Marseilles Training Center to tour its new automated record firing range, which doubles the number of soldiers that can complete their qualifications in a day.
Maj. Dan Johnson said the new firing range cuts the amount of time it takes for a soldier to complete qualifications from 21 hours to nine hours.
“We learn a lot as wars continue,” said Maj. Gen. Rich Neely, the Adjutant General of Illinois and Commander of the Illinois National Guard. “We’ve changed our fitness tests and modified our equipment. This creates a more realistic scenario that allows for decision making through fields of fire.”
Neely said the targets on the firing range are automatic, removing the need to go into the range and replace silhouettes after each session and there’s a computer in the control tower that keeps track of the score based on accuracy and the amount of time it takes.
Johnson said the new range has 16 firing points now, compared to the six it had before.
“It’s a big deal,” Neely said. “We have over 10,000 soldiers that use this facility and it’s not just the range. The 20th anniversary of 9/11 is just weeks away and the National Guard has been more active in that time than it’s ever been. Instead of having to send people out of state, we can have them do their training here so they have more training time and more time at home.”
Neely said other organizations, such as local state, county and municipal police departments and ROTC use the facilities as well as the Boy Scouts. It’s also good for local businesses, as those who travel through the area for the training center will be using local businesses.
“We have some weapons we don’t fire here out of politeness to the neighbors,” Neely said. “The M4 is the primary infantry weapon and that’s the one they mostly shoot here. The others, like we saw earlier, are called crew-served weapons. Those don’t get fired here.”
The project cost $4.6 million but Neely said once the budget is cleaned up it’ll end up costing around $5 million, completely funded by the federal government. It started in October 2019 and was completed in May.
The Marseilles Training Center as a complex has a bed capacity of 1,022 with classrooms and dining facilities, and is used by all branches of the service. It has six firing ranges and covers more than 2,551 acres of land.