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Minnesota National Guard
Baxter City Council: Camp Ripley gears up for summer activity

Minnesota National Guard Posted: By Renee Richardson

Senior Reporter BAXTER -- Camp Ripley expects a lighter year this summer

June is expected to be the big month as units train at Camp Ripley

"Again, it's not thunder -- it's us," said Col Scott St Sauver, post commander

St Sauver said last year was much heavier on the firing range than it has been in the past

Beginning in May, the camp expects nearly 8,000 military personnel with four engineering battalions

By June, the military strength should be more than 9,000

Units are expected to include combat arms and air assault battalions and a combat aviation brigade among air traffic, medical support, military police, engineers, transportation and infantry units

Expect an artillery battalion to make noise in June And expect to see Black Hawk and Chinook helicopters with a Marine aviation brigade with a lot of rotary helicopter traffic in June Many of those air operations will be on the north side of the camp on the Pillager edge

The first groups of tanks are expected to roll in this July and while they'll be to the south on the camp, St Sauver said people will be able to hear them

A water purification company from New Jersey is one of the companies coming in for training and will use the Mississippi River for fast water training

Numbers will go down in July, St Sauver said, with the compliment of troops dropping to about 6,000 including a combined arms battalion and the 34th Infantry Division and Iowa's 1-194 Field Artillery, among others

In August, numbers will go up to nearly 7,500 troops with another field artillery battalion in camp with units from Minnesota and Ohio

"We'll be pretty loud in early August," St Sauver said, adding by mid-August things will settle down

In other news, St Sauver said potential sequestration effects may include furloughs of federal technicians That may effect 382 full-time employees who will be forced to take one day off per week St Sauver met with Congressman Rick Nolan, D-Minn, last week and talked about the effect those furloughs would have on employees and communities

Also related to sequestration, St Sauver said the camp may see a reduction in operational tempo, and may see a cutback in ammunition needed for training because of shipping costs and a reduction in military construction St Sauver said on the plus side most of the ranges the camp needs were built or are in process or are funded already Last year, construction projects at the camp amounted to about $27 million with $3 million in local contracts

"Those are pretty big numbers," St Sauver said

He said the camp's economic impact in the community was $310,208,539 million in 2012

Other cutbacks following sequestration were reported with a cutoff in support for local civilian events such as flyovers, previously part of baseball openers and often part of Fourth of July celebrations Currently, St Sauver said all flyovers are just for mission training in preparation for fire and flooding

After an ongoing war cycle, a reduction in operational tempo won't have a dramatic effect immediately, St Sauver said, noting during the last 10 or 12 years all the equipment has been upgraded St Sauver said he expects that equipment will have to last for many years going forward

Camp Ripley has more than training solely for soldiers The camp now has 48 miles of a high- and low-speed road course with rural and urban segments including an interchange and skills pads The emergency vehicle operator course is a joint undertaking with the Minnesota Department of Public Safety and Military Affairs Minnesota Department of Transportation drivers and snow plow drivers train at the camp along with Department of Natural Resources

St Sauver said unmanned aerial systems (UAS), also known as drones, some with 12-foot wingspans will be flying in Camp Ripley's restricted airspace, which extends 29,000 feet above ground A 1,000-foot strip means the camp can handle all UAS types and sizes St Sauver said the camp does not have weapon-carrying drones and doesn't fly them at the camp

The addition to the education center will add 40 rooms of lodging, a 400 seat dining facility and classrooms facilities to handle 200 students

The intent, St Sauver said, is to have a training facility for the state agencies in one place

St Sauver said the camp is partnering with the Department of Employment and Economic Development to look at capabilities to be a state test site for UAS in the future

St Sauver said as far as environmental work, the camp continues its surveys, including invasive species He said the bear and wolf populations are healthy and stable with the wolves rarely leaving the camp's 53,000 acres for long

St Sauver said his biggest fear is a fire as he expects the area to go from snow to green up quickly and leave little time for controlled burns St Sauver said he thanked residents who called in a small fire that moved onto the camp last year and they were able to put it out quickly

Council member Rob Moser thanked St Sauver for the work the camp is doing and for the annual updates

April 2, 2013 - 11:05pm
RENEE RICHARDSON, senior reporter, may be reached at 855-5852 or reneerichardson@brainerddispatch.com Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Dispatchbizbuzz
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