Katie Peterson | Staff Writer
In 2017, following two years of training and discussion, the U.S. Army decided that all Department of the Army and military police would have to complete an annual Law Enforcement Weapons Training and Qualification to mirror annual training and qualification off-post civilian law enforcement officers take.
LEWTAQ must be conducted on a 50-meter range, which Fort Leavenworth did not have. In 2019, Installation Management Command provided the Directorate of Public Works with $1.5 million to expand Kinder Range. Construction began in March 2020, and a large portion of the construction was to carve out the hill to the west to turn the 25-meter range into a 50-meter range.
“What DPW did initially was they conducted a land survey …to make sure where the bullets travel was not going to exceed the height of that hill,” said Chris Fernandez, Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security operations and training specialist and overseer of Kinder Range. “We took steps to make sure that our surface danger zone is accurate to the weapons and the caliber of weapons that we’re going to fire in there.
“We did that initially for the first three months of the project,” he said. “What they’re doing now is they’re constructing a wall (more than 25 feet high), which is acting as a backstop to the bullets, which is called a bullet catcher.”
The construction, led by Julius Kaaz Construction Co. Inc. in Leavenworth, includes removing lead-contaminated soil and laying concrete to help the soldiers keep their footing during the qualification.
“They’ll be running toward the target, so we want to make sure that we provide enough proper material so they’re not slipping,” Fernandez said. “If you put anything but concrete on there, it would be very difficult for them during the wintertime.”
During LEWTAQ, law enforcement personnel will go through a series of target engagements at closer and closer ranges using carbines and pistols.
“That’s the idea of the LEWTAQ is to replicate what the law enforcement off-post have been doing for years and years and years, which is a little different than what the on-post military police qualification has been,” said Doug Cook, DPTMS operations chief.
Since construction began, MPs have travelled to various recreational shooting sites in Missouri and to Fort Riley, Kansas, to complete training, but having a proper site will help accomplish the mission more efficiently, Fernandez said.
“It’s a challenge for them to take everything elsewhere and driving the ammunitions outside or taking it to another location to, for example, Fort Riley. That’s a two-hour drive,” Fernandez said. “They have to take all their gear, all their weapons, all their ammunition, security for the ammunition and take it all the way down there, two hours away.
“Being here, having this type of setup will benefit the MPs, especially when they’re doing shiftwork,” he said. “Conducting shiftwork, that’s very difficult for them (to work a shift, then drive two hours, qualify, then drive two hours back) and I think having this here just gives them a better avenue to qualify with their weapons.”
Kinder Range is expected to have a soft opening May 1 with a full opening later in the summer.