A four-person Land Rehabilitation and Management maintenance crew is two weeks into a month-long cleanup at an older construction debris dump site on Fort Leonard Wood’s Maneuver Area 24 — the goal being to make the two-acre location useable for training again.
“It has a whole mix of asphalt, concrete, some metal and wood debris,” said Billy Cox, senior equipment operator for the crew. “We’re going to get everything cleaned, separated and put where it’s supposed to be so it’s not taking up training land.”
The cleanup is just one aspect of an ongoing program on the installation called Integrated Training Area Management — part of the Army’s Sustainable Range Program.
“The SRP is the Army’s overall approach for improving the way in which it designs, manages and uses its ranges and training lands to ensure long-term sustainability,” said Justin Fenton, coordinator for the ITAM program at the Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security. “The ITAM program’s focus is on the doctrinal capability of the Army’s ranges and training land.”
About 42,000 acres of land is under the watch of ITAM, and Fenton called the program “the bridge between the training and environmental sides.”
“There’s nothing environmentally friendly about military training,” he said. “That’s what the ITAM program is for — to determine the carrying capacity of the land. We try to help find that balance and move the training around to different spots, so if one area gets beat down a little bit, we can move the training somewhere else while we go in and make sure our soils are stable — our grass is growing — and not eroding. It’s a fine balance out there.”
Currently, more than 5,000 acres of vegetation is being managed under the program, as well as 20 miles of maneuver trail maintenance.
“There’s a lot of areas that have been overgrown,” Fenton said. “We’re going to expand and get more training opportunities in these areas that are not being used. But we’re going to do that while mediating the effect on the environment. Because by sustaining the environment, we’re sustaining the ranges and the training opportunities here into the future.”
To manage such a large land area, Fenton’s team includes a land
assessment specialist as well as geographic information systems mapping
“The bivouacs, helicopter landing zones, open maneuver areas, the land navigation areas — I go out and look at all the training areas to see what work needs to be done,” said Prasanna Shrestha, Range Training Land
“In addition, our GIS component tracks all assets on the ground,” Fenton added. “Big Army sees this; all other installations can see this. They can say, ‘Hey, we want to train this — Fort Leonard Wood has this.’ We can build them some great maps that they can take and train with here.”
Fenton said he is also coordinating with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Engineer Research and Development Center and Construction Engineering Research Laboratory to integrate geospatial databases with training doctrine to optimize land-management
“This approach — including GIS information in the identification of suitable training sites — will help us meet evolving mission requirements,” he said.
The ITAM program also incorporates an awareness campaign for sustaining the installation’s training areas and ranges, including the development of products like Soldier field cards and videos, Fenton said.
“It provides a proactive means to educate users of range and training land assets,” he added.
Fenton summarized the ITAM program as “Soldier support.”
“At the end of the day, that’s really what the program is for,” he said. “It’s all driven by the Soldier and their training needs — whatever they need drives my program. Every Soldier deserves the best possible training and learning environment to develop the skills to fight, win and return.”