What are all the Booms About?…March 23, 2016

By Nancy Arsenault

Fort Devens              Courtesy

Fort Devens                                                            Courtesy

March 12 sounded more like the 4th of July, according to some residents who placed anxious phone calls to the Stow Police department. But it wasn’t a case of misplaced fireworks; it was a Fort Devens training exercise.

Fort Devens spokesman Steve Hood explained this was a light demolition training; something that is on their schedule at least through March. Hood, the Deputy to the Garrison Commander, United States Army Garrison, Fort Devens Reserve Force Training Area, said that the facility, about 17 miles from Stow center, hosts numerous training exercises for reservists and others, both military and civilian. The 5,000-acre training field there is the site of light demolition exercises, primarily, and that is what was taking place on the weekend.

“On March 12, the Massachusetts Army National Guard’s 387th Ordnance Company conducted basic demolition training in conjunction with required Explosive Ordnance Disposal training. Such training is necessary in order to allow the unit to not only conduct its mission in support of U.S. forces overseas, but also Federal, State and local law enforcement agencies at home,” said Hood.

While he could not fully elaborate as to the specific ammunition or explosives involved in the training, Hood did say that  the Massachusetts Air National Guard 387th Ordnance Company participated in MOUT or Military Operations on Urban Terrain during that March weekend.  While urban terrain is not a natural condition of the open range at Devens, Hood said that makeshift structures, fences and other obstacles are often put in place to simulate that environment.  Hood said that their training  focused on tactics to deal with unexploded ordnances that reservists  might come across in both domestic and international situations. There were various grades of explosives involved in the training, which also included “blowing in place” of those devices, he said.

Hood said that the United States Army Garrison Fort Devens Reserve Force Training Area recognizes the concerns of  its community partners in the towns that surround the facility.  He said that alerts of upcoming training exercises are sent to surrounding police and fire departments, to better help them deal with resident phone calls or inquiries. There is also a website link that hosts a Noise Bulletin of upcoming training exercises.  The link is https://www.devens.army.mil/noise-report/noise_report.html and the report is updated monthly. Hood said that while the current schedule concludes at the end of March, he expects that as more training periods are booked be reserve companies and others, the expanded spring calendar will be published.

The arrival of spring brings a heightened awareness about the natural environment around the training range, said Hood. There are dedicated personnel committed to environmental stewardship of the land, including wildlife habitats and various vegetative species that exist there. Training activities are designed to avoid areas where identified species are nesting or migrating at certain points during the season. Invasive plant growth is targeted so that healthy trees and plants do not get overrun by unchecked growth of these destructive plants. “We have a dedicated team of professionals on site and we are also working closely with the Environmental Protection Agency. The Army, as a whole, are good stewards of the environment,” said Hood.

Looking forward, Hood said, “We expect to see 150,000 reservists come here for training this year. We are very proud of helping to do our part in New England to ensure Army readiness and of our mission here and what we do for the Army Reserves.” Hood added that he would not rule out the possibility that in the future, residents of neighboring communities may have an opportunity to come onto the property where “we can show off the great work this workforce, both civilian and military, is doing on this installation.”