Butler Range Complex
The 1st Armored Division built a multi-purpose range complex at a location to the east of Baghdad (what the Iraqis used to call Kirzah. The Butler Range Complex will allow the soldiers of this division to continue to hone their gunnery skills in everything from small arms to tank and rocket gunnery.
The sounds of sporadic small arms fire and explosions have become commonplace here in recent months, but 20 miles east of Baghdad, a remote desert area, the sounds will be a constant. A new weapons firing range, known as the Kirzah Range, was built for coalition forces and will soon be fully functional. The opening date was scheduled 10 October 2003; however four ranges were open by late September. Ground was broken for the site Aug. 13. Built by the 1457th Engineer Battalion, a Utah Army National Guard unit and the 203rd Engineer Battalion, a Missouri Army National Guard unit, the site has all amenities of existing Army compounds in Iraq, and maybe even more than most.
"The intent is having a permanent range for as long as the U.S. is here," said Capt. Lance Pearce, A Company commander, 203rd Engineer Battalion. As of late September 2003 there were 46 16-by-32 foot barracks, large enough to hold 10 soldiers comfortably and up to 18 at maximum capacity. Nine structures will be home for the permanent party range controllers. All will be equipped with air conditioning and electricity. Restrooms equipped with showers, sink and toilets are under construction as well as a dining facility and a laundry facility. According to Pearce, up to 500 soldiers can live in the area at one time.
More than 300 engineers from the 203rd Engineer Battalion have taken on the task of building the wooden structures. For security purposes, the 1457th Engineer Battalion formed a berm with the use of heavy equipment. The work can be very rewarding for the soldiers. "Many of the soldiers do this in the civilian world," said Pearce.
Encompassing 56 square kilometers, there will be eight different types of ranges at the site which will include small arms firing, squad live fire, aviation, Paladins and artillery position, convoy live fire and machinegun transition, according to Sgt. First Class Bill Courchen, 1st Armored Division's Bradley master gunner. Courchen said the schedule of those units designated to use the range has already been made for the next six months. Each brigade will have six to eight weeks to use the range. "All weapons systems organic to the division will be able to shoot here," Courchen said.
Brig. Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, 1st Armored Division's (AD) Assistant Division Commander (Maneuver), and Command Sgt. Maj. Nathaniel Hopkins, 3rd Brigade Combat Team Command Sergeant Major, unveil a sign marking the opening of the Butler Range Complex, Nov. 7, 2003. The first range of its type anywhere in Iraq, Butler Range Complex is capable of supporting various types of tank, artillery and infantry gunnery training, which is critical to maintaining a Soldier's war-fighting skills. The maneuver battalions in 3rd BCT have already begun blasting away at targets on the range, honing their skills should they be needed again in Iraq.
The range is named in honor of Sgt. Jacob L. Butler, the first 1AD soldier killed during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Butler, a scout for 3rd BCT's 1st Battalion, 41st Infantry Regiment, died during one of the first heavy engagements of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The battalion was supporting elements of the 82nd Airborne Division in and around the southern Iraqi town of as-Samwah when they ran into heavy opposition near a bridge as they crossed the Euphrates River. The battalion's scouts were sent forward to assess the enemy's strength on the far side of the bridge. When a fellow scout was wounded after a rocket-propelled grenade struck his vehicle, Butler went forward to continue the reconnaissance mission and rescue his fellow Soldier. He was killed when small-arms fire and an RPG struck his vehicle. Butler was the first Soldier from the 1st Armored Division to die in Iraq during OIF. His death stunned the battalion. "Sgt. Butler took the fight to the enemy so the enemy couldn't bring the fight to us," said 3rd BCT commander Col. Russ Gold during the dedication ceremony. "His actions that day saved the lives of his fellow Soldiers and countless others that followed."
In the outskirts of Baghdad, the sounds of mortar rounds and tank blasts echo over a barren desert and Soldiers fight invisible enemies. It sounds like a war, but the ammunition fired is not from the heat of battle but rather a controlled training environment. Soldiers from 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, are supporting the Butler Range Compound. The service they provide allows units stationed in Iraq, as well as Iraqi forces, to conduct vital training. In November 2004 soldiers from 2 BCT provide force protection security for the small, isolated training base. This frees units to conduct training without incident.
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