MARINE CORPS AIR STATION YUMA, Ariz., -- The station Range Management Department is currently in the process of establishing a new section called the Range Operations Control Center in order to fully utilize the station’s 2.8 million-acres of range training area.
The ROCC is anticipated to be fully operational by September of 2007 and is expected to be partially operational by May of 2007, when it will be used to monitor training on the Chocolate Mountain Aerial Gunnery Range.
The ROCC started development in the summer of 2005 in response to the heavy use of the air station’s training areas, especially during the Weapons and Tactics Instructor course, said Gene Kellar, ROCC manager.
The control center will combine the range safety and range scheduling departments and add a new section called fire desk operations.
Range safety will monitor range usage, ensuring units are training within designated areas, and enforce the station’s range regulations.
Range scheduling will combine the current air and ground training schedule systems into one. This change will provide a safety net for units training on the ranges by ensuring ground units are not training in the same area at the same time as aircraft, said Kellar. It will also promote better use of the ranges by taking advantage of all available times.
The final section, fire desk operations, will act as the eyes and ears of the center by using a low altitude radio communications system and radar feeds to monitor all the training occurring on the station’s ranges.
The operators will monitor the unit’s locations via computer and radio contact with range safety personnel on the ranges to provide advisory notices at a moment’s notice.
These notices could include events such as aircraft dropping ordnance or illegal immigrants crossing into training areas.
Fire desk personnel will also enforce the daily and monthly training schedules produced by the scheduling section.
When the ROCC is fully operational it will be able to gather ordnance and laser data from units training on the station’s training areas and be a source for range utilization data for the Federal Aviation Administration and Department of the Navy.
The ROCC will also work with the station air traffic control branch to monitor the activities of the units training on the ranges. ATC will clear the units to train on the ranges and the ROCC will provide advisory information on the training that is taking place.
The ROCC will also work closely with other sections of the Range Management Department to ensure that all range ordnance issues are handled by the appropriately trained personnel, all training is compliant with current environmental regulations and that range targets and other training aids are maintained in a usable condition, said Kellar.
“With the ROCC, I (will) know my where Marines are,” said Master Sgt. Eric Genzer, range safety supervisor. “I’ve got 2.8 million acres to cover and there’s only myself and Chief Warrant Officer 3 Tim Szymanski covering the ranges (in terms of safety). That communication will be our bread and butter. We have to have that communication with our personnel on the deck and in the air.”
In 2005, the air station supported 80 percent of the Marine Corps’ air-toground training.
In the past, Range Operations depended heavily on the safety and flight officer from the WTI to maintain communication between the training units. But once WTI finished, there was a mass influx of units wanting to train on the ranges, said Kellar.
It’s been difficult to track and ensure that each one of those units is given the opportunity to train on the ranges.
“We have the largest airspace in the entire Marine Corps, and yet the station doesn’t have a range operations control center to give advisory information to the aircraft and the ground personnel to deconflict possible hazards,” said Kellar.
Currently, the only communication that takes place is between the ground personnel and the aircraft of the units directly, said Kellar. These forward air controllers relaying information to the aircraft aren’t always aware of other units or aircraft training in the vicinity.
And that is where the ROCC will come in, because it will enable the range operations department to know who is training, where they are training, and how long the training will last, said Kellar. As the number of units that train in Yuma increase, the role of the range operations department becomes ever more important in ensuring training space and time is available.