One of five locations currently being considered as an anti-ballistic missile launch site by the Department of Defense is right in Portage County, at the Ohio Army National Guard Joint Military Training Center just east of Ravenna.
The center covers more than 21,000 acres of ground previously used for the Ravenna Army Ammunitions Plant, also known as the Ravenna Arsenal.
The arsenal was used to manufacture bombs and projectiles during World War II, the Korean War and Vienam, and it became a National Guard training site in 1971.
A tour was conducted on Wednesday by the Ohio National Guard to allow the Restoration Advisory Board members to see the recently completed Demolition and Hand Grenade ranges, and a Military Operations in Urban Terrain training village.
Rick Lehner, a spokesperson for the Missile Defense Agency, has stated Ohioans should not worry about an increased missile threat if the Ravenna site is chosen because interceptors would intercept a missile far away from Ohio. In fact, he said, the intent is to intercept long before a missile would reach North America. The interceptors are three-stage devices that would collide with an incoming warhead and destroy it before it reaches the atmosphere.
There are now two active missile defense sites with long-range interceptors, in Alaska and California, and information released by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel late in 2012 indicated the Pentagon would, by 2017, deploy 14 more ground-based interceptors at Fort Greely, in Alaska, and Vandenberg Air Force Base, in California, bringing the total number up from 30 to 44, a nearly 50 percent increase in U.S. missile capability. Hagel said the boost was due to North Korea's continued nuclear testing. The other four sites being considered are in New York, Vermont, Maine and Michigan.
The federal land where the center is found, situated in Portage and Trumbull counties, is under a cleanup program that will identify and clean up the environmental contaminations left from the early operations at the site. At this point, about 93 percent of the land used for the old Ravenna Arsenal has been transferred to the Ohio National Guard, and the remaining land is being studied and cleaned up, as needed, to make the grounds environmentally safe for eventual transfer to the Ohio National Guard.
The RAB, made up of officials from surrounding townships, was created to oversee the cleanup, which is being conducted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, under the direction of the Ohio EPA.
During the tour, Lt. Col. William Meade of the U.S. Army Ohio National Guard announced the training center is sending information to the DOD, but the site study won't be completed for about a year. If the camp is recommended, it would have to be approved by Congress and the president.
"It's a long way off. An environmental impact study would have to be done that would take two or more years, and then construction would take about three years. So, it would take three to five years, minimum, to get it here," said Meade.
During the tour, Meade explained up to 50 pounds of explosives can be set up, with ignitors, and then detonated from the safety of ballistic bunkers with observations windows in the Demolition Range.
Soldiers in training are required to throw one live hand grenade every two years, Meade said, and after they use practice ranges located elsewhere at the center, and they hit their targets, they are brought to the Hand Grenade range.
The Military Operations in Urban Terrain village is constructed in a fashion similar to how villages are built in Iraq and Afghanistan, Meade also explained during the tour. The village at the center was paid for by the Ohio National Guard at a cost of around $350,000. It is filled with corners, entrances, exits, courtyards and enough twists and turns to make a soldier's job extremely difficult when working to clear an area, Meade said, which is exactly what the military finds in Iraq and Afghanistan. A village the size of the one at the training center, covering about 200 feet by 200 feet, would house 30 to 40 people, in close proximity. Meade said the villages have communal fruit trees, animals and butcher shops. "The living conditions there are radically different from here (in the U.S.)," Meade said.
As the training center continues to be cleaned up and utilized, the Ohio Army National Guard has stated its vision is "for Camp Ravenna to serve as a premier training center for pre-mobilization, inactive duty training and annual training events and to be a training facility that provides a world-class range complex, maneuver training areas, and training support facilities which meet unit readiness requirements."
The amount of soldiers being trained at the center depends on whether units are being mobilized in Ohio, Meade said. "When Ohio units are being mobilized, we're extremely busy here," he closed.