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Official: Ranges important to success

By Staff Sgt. C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (May 08, 2003) -- Training ranges are vital to the Air Forceís success on the battlefield, Air Combat Commandís chief of ranges, airfields and airspace operations told a congressional committee May 6.

Col. Frank DiGiovanni's testimony was part of a fact gathering effort by the House Resources Committee as it considers legislation that will change various environmental laws. If approved, the changes could affect the way Department of Defense officials manage training ranges.

"We are constantly upgrading and reconfiguring our ranges," DiGiovanni told committee members. "Prior to Operation Enduring Freedom, we built new target sets that resembled Taliban caves and their encampments. These were used to prepare our aircrew members for combat operations just prior to their deployment to Afghanistan."

In another example, DiGiovanni explained how bomber and fighter aircrews used Air Force ranges in Nevada to develop new tactics for use in urban warfare and against Scud missile systems. That training helped prepare pilots for combat in Iraq, DiGiovanni said.

"The effectiveness of these tactics was graphically demonstrated when an Air Force (B-1B Lancer) dropped four Joint Direct Attack Munitions on a Baghdad restaurant suspected to be a Saddam Hussein hideout," DiGiovanni said.

In both examples, the colonel said the Air Force maintained environmental stewardship using approved natural resource management plans.

"In these two examples, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service-approved plans provided us the flexibility to rapidly respond to worldwide contingencies, while protecting threatened and endangered species, through a carefully thought out planning process," DiGiovanni said.

DOD officials submitted legislation to Congress called the Range and Readiness Preservation Initiative. The initiative, in part, asks legislators to make environmental laws more specific, along with providing more leeway in how it manages environmental issues on its training ranges critical to military readiness.

"Continued access to these national training ranges is essential to our airmen going into combat with the unique confidence that they are the finest trained air force in the world," DiGiovanni said. "Our measure of success is simple: we want a lethal, combat-survivable warfighter who will come home when the hostilities are over."