When Soldiers go out to the ranges they’re practicing the skills they’ll use when they deploy. One of those skills is shooting – ranging from pistols and shotguns to grenade launchers and beyond.
To keep the back 40 safe, Fort Campbell has two designated areas for the units to practice with live rounds known as the impact area.
“It’s there to keep the bullets and the bombs in one spot,” said Michael Mazuk, installation range officer. “There’s so much firing going on, you don’t know which ranges are hot and which ones aren’t and you might get into someone’s firing fan and end up getting shot.”
The impact areas are marked in pink on training maps. They are where rounds are fired and it is where unexploded ordnances could lie.
Fort Campbell has two designated impact areas, one for small arms and the other for larger ordnances. Both areas are clearly marked with danger signs every five to 10 feet reading “Unexploded duds, Keep out! Trespassing or removal of any items from range is prohibited by law.”
Despite this, they still charge several people a year for trespassing in the impact area according to Jeremy Curtis, U.S. Fish and Wildlife officer.
“The biggest [problem] we have are deer hunters who like to go in there,” said Curtis. Because the areas have been closed to hunters since Fort Campbell began practicing with live rounds, deer and rabbits have taken up residence.
Anyone charged with trespassing will lose their Fort Campbell hunting privileges for life and be barred from post, meaning they will be arrested if they are caught near Fort Campbell.
According to Mazuk, it’s more likely people end up in the impact areas by accident because they’re wandering around without knowing where they are. They could wind up getting hurt.
“There have been instances over at Fort Bragg where some people went out in the impact area, picked up something they shouldn’t have and two people got killed,” Mazuk said. And that’s just in the last six months.”
Muzak said there’s all sorts of munitions there that are extremely dangerous and sensitive that people need to stay away from. He cited a story at Fort Campbell from the early 80’s when a man came on post searching for scrap metal and ended up a quadriplegic.
Curtis added that even the small arms area shouldn’t be underestimated.
“They have found bigger rounds on the small arms area,” he explained. “Over the years they’ve changed the ranges up so much, [and] there are so many rounds they just don’t know what’s out there. It’s just unsafe, so they mark it.”
Because the areas are still active, there’s been no effort to clean up the areas. Curtis said the sheer number of unexploded ordnances in the areas makes it unsafe and nearly impossible to clean up the area.
Mazuk said it wasn’t fiscally sound to remove the ordnances since the units would continue firing into the impact areas. He added the only people allowed on the impact areas have explosives training and are paid hazardous duty pay.
“[People] just need to stay out of there,” Mazuk said. “No one’s allowed to go into the impact area without my approval. The only other person who can approve someone to go out there is the commanding general.”