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Renovated small arms range officially opens

U.S. Air Force Col. Michael Manion, 55th Wing commander, prepares to fire during the ribbon shooting ceremony for the new combat arms firing range at Offutt Air Force Base, Neb. Jan. 29, 2018.

U.S. Air Force Col. Michael Manion, 55th Wing commander, prepares to fire during the ribbon shooting ceremony for the new combat arms firing range at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, Jan. 29, 2018. The renovated facility is 16,200 square feet and provides a completely enclosed interior range with 21 firing positions, a state-of-the-art target retrieval system, a new bullet trap system, a public address system and a support area. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jacob Skovo)

OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. --

After more than five years without a proper firing range on base, 55th Wing leadership shot the ribbon on the renovated indoor small arms range during a ceremony here Jan. 29.

The upgraded $6.5 million facility is 16,200 square feet and provides a completely enclosed interior range with 21 firing positions, state-of-the-art target retrieval system, new bullet trap system, public address system and support area.

“What a great day it is when the red hats are on and the red flag flies,” said Col. Michael Manion, 55th Wing commander, referring to the combat arms section of the 55th Security Forces Squadron, who wear red hats as instructors and fly a red flag when the range is active.

“Having this facility open and ready for training is absolutely essential to ensuring the War Hawks are properly prepared when our nation calls us to battle,” he added. “I cannot thank everyone enough who has worked on this project to get it operational.”

With the re-opening of the range, military members no longer have to travel to Council Bluffs, Iowa for small arms qualification training. Previously, they accomplished this after hours at the Southwest Iowa Law Enforcement Training Center in Council Bluffs.

“All War Hawks who need to fire can now qualify in one day versus firing all night and needing the next day off as well to recover,” said Tech. Sgt. Stephano Picchietti, 55th SFS Combat Arms NCO in charge. “We are getting back more than 6,000 man hours a year.”

“Our defenders typically train about 4,000 people a year, so it is great to have this facility available here on base,” said Col. Dave Norton, 55th Mission Support Group commander.

The new range provides an up-to-date ventilation system and acoustical panels are installed on the surface of the overhead steel baffle system of the range lanes and surrounding interior walls.

On the north side of the facility is a new control booth, restrooms, supply storage room and entry vestibule.

“We had a lot of issues with the older facility and this one remedies them all,” Norton said.

While the facility is fully operational, some cosmetic work is still being accomplished on the outside. When complete the exterior façade will complement the metal panels and brick color used on the 55th SFS headquarters facility, located just across the street.