MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
In retrospect of the tragic event in 2009 when a service member was killed during training at the rifle range after a round ricocheted off a target, officials with Marine Corps Installations East directed safety administrators aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune to take preventative actions.
Since then, ranges aboard the base have been fitted with the pit-alarm sensor systems - a first in the Marine Corps - to take a step beyond the outdated red safety line.
Glenn Bourgeois, tactical safety specialist with the Department of Public Safety aboard the base, said that after the new systems were beta tested on Charlie Range in August last year, the alarms have effectively been installed in Bravo and Alpha Ranges as well.
“(The alarms on Charlie Range) worked great,” said Bourgeois. “The Marines love it back there and it gave them the opportunity to focus more on the operations in the pits, as far as slow targets or if there is a mechanical malfunction. They are able to pay more attention to that then worrying if people are crossing the line. If they cross it, the alarm automatically goes off right next to them and the range goes to ‘cease fire.’”
Bourgeois added that it’s also easier for the Marines on the line to communicate with the Marines in the pits because the alarms have been installed in the ‘towers’ or sound carts as well.
On each yard line, they have a red light that tells them that the alarm is active in the pits. They also have a strobe light and an alarm box, and if the alarm is tripped, the Marines on the firing line are alerted simultaneously.
“We’ve had it happen a number of times so far,” said Bourgeois. “Another good thing about it is that everything is also recorded on camera. We can back-track and see exactly who it was, because it has both sides of the firing lines covered.”
Bravo Range was completed a few weeks ago as well as Alpha Range, which initially had a few difficulties with telephone lines that travel up and down the range, but has since been fixed.
“Everybody out there loves the new alarms,” said Bourgeois. “It’s a good piece of gear - it’s a good preventative (measure). Now the Marines know it’s there. There are no excuses and they know, ‘I can’t sneak to the bathroom anymore.’ If they cross it, it goes off and there’s no denying it.”
Sgt. Blaine Stanfield, pit safety noncommissioned officer at Stone Bay with Weapons Training Battalion, said that after the incident and before the alarms were established, everyone was worried about safety in the pits.
“There are typically two pit NCOs down there in control of about 100 shooters at a time,” said Stanfield. “It’s a hassle. Before the lasers, they decided to test big mirrors that were outside on the target shed so we could see around the corners. It didn’t work.”
Just like with any new standard operating procedures, the new alarm systems took a little getting used to. The original plan was to have a laser system with one continual beam from target one through 50, which would sit right above the first stair on the catwalk.
After trial, error and ‘false positives’ with the alarms, the sensors were installed to run across the second red line, a few feet away from the catwalk to allow room for fallen targets and other malfunctions that may need to be fixed.
“Since we’ve gotten the laser system (successfully installed), I enjoy it,” said Stanfield. “We have the cameras just in case someone crosses the red line and if they say ‘I didn’t do it,’ I’ll rewind the tape and show them. If their commanders or anyone in the unit wants to know why their Marines were dropped from the range, I have it on video.”
Stanfield added that with the systems, he and other pit NCOs don’t have to keep their heads on a swivel, worrying about if someone’s going to cross the red line anymore. Now, pit officials can focus more on pit operations and Marines being able to qualify without interference, as they were intended to.