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Behind the Gates of Camp Ravenna

Camp Ravenna – Early Saturday morning almost 200 people sacrificed sleep when they arrived at 7:30 a.m. at the Renaissance Family Center for a tour of Camp Ravenna.  The excited folks enjoyed coffee and donuts while they waited on the buses to take them to see first hand what really lays behind the gate at Camp Ravenna Military Training Facility aka the Ravenna Arsenal. The four hour tour was set up by the Windham Historical Society as a fundraiser for the Bicentennial to be held later this summer. The group traveled by school buses that were paid for by the historical society to see what goes on and to get a little history lesson on the camp. Everyone was greeted by the Garrison Commander Lieutenant Colonial Ed Meade. Meade addressed everyone and told a little bit about what we would see and he introduced each bus to their tour guide.  The tour took us to the old stone arch bridge that spans Sand Creek which fascinated everyone. Our guide Major Richard Saphore explained that the bridge was constructed in the late 1800 and the military recently spent $250,000 on restoration of the bridge. A large percentage of the restoration money was spent on scientific research to determine the type of mortar they would need to use to replicate the original mortar of the bridge. At the bridge one could see the dam the Boy Scouts built years ago and see a small water fall. Everyone was thrilled with the sight, took advantage of the photo opportunity and asked many questions about the camp. The second stop took a detour around a broken culvert to see a bunker. The bunkers are virtually invisible from an aerial view and even had trees growing on top of them. They built the bunkers in staggered rows 1500 feet apart to prevent a chain reaction of explosions if one was filled with ordinances was hit. Currently they do not store any ordinances in the bunkers but occasionally they store weapons from drug raids there until the case goes to trial, then the weapons are destroyed. The cost of removing the bunkers is staggering so for now they are used for storage for a variety of items. The camp has 693 bunkers.  The next stop on the tour took one to what used to be the officers housing and a tour of one of the houses. The officers’ housing is set up in a circle simulating an old pioneer village. The colonial houses built in the early 1940’s had beautiful hardwood floors, three- four bedrooms, two baths and a fireplace; although the houses are not in livable condition and are now used for training purposes, one could see that they were once a place of splendor. The former officer’s houses will be torn down in the future, but for now they use them to train drug dogs and train military personnel.  The Readiness Center and the newly built barracks were the next stop. There one saw new recruits learning how to properly wear fatigues, get ready for basic training, and glimpses of the small mess hall. The barracks that were recently finished gave one a snapshot of a soldiers’ life at the camp. There are three barracks that can house up 2500 soldiers and the last one was recently finished and is waiting on furniture.  The last stop of the tour took the group to the simulated training area. The humvee rollover simulator was interesting to see. The simulator is computer programmed to simulate any type of situation the soldiers may find themselves in when using the humvee. The humvee simulator is an actual humvee set on a mechanical arm that is computer controlled. The mechanical arm rotates the humvee to various degrees including the ability to do a 360. The simulator rotates the vehicle at various degrees imitating a rollover, which the soldiers learn how to escape from different angles and scenarios. The driving simulators are programmed to simulate any vehicle the military has to offer and have the feel of actual driving. If you are driving on a rough road the seat will bounce you around as if you’re actually traveling on a road. Each simulator computer stores data and allows one to see how they did and what one needs to do to improve their skills. The artillery simulator was real interesting too. Tourists had the opportunity to see how a computer can control the scene that the shooter sees and how the laser weapons are used to improve marksmanship. The computerized laser guns tell you if you’re jerking when shooting, hesitating or improperly holding the gun and even give one the feel of a real gun when they feel the recourse of every shot fired.  It also records how many shots were fired, how many hits, and how many kills. The simulator shooting scene can be changed from a clear day, to fog, rain, night time, cloudy etc. giving a soldier a chance to prepare for all types of adverse conditions. The tour lasted four hours and just showed snippets of what all happens behind the intriguing gates of Camp Ravenna. To see the entire facility in action one would need to be a soldier, however the portions we did see, really gives one an idea of what happens behind the gates and the role Camp Ravenna plays in our nation’s security and the freedoms we all experience everyday.

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