If you need machine guns for your Army, you have to train machine gunners!

October 2020

The recently announced machine gun range to be built at what used to be Camp Edwards has stirred up a hornet’s nest of objections. BANANA (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything) is alive and well and living on Cape Cod.

The objectors have long lists of complaints. It will cut down a lot of trees. It will be noisy. It will pollute the water. Too much traffic will be generated. With all the troops coming in, Zachary’s strip club is sure to return.

But I have yet to see anyone arguing that the Army doesn’t need a machine gun range. They just don’t want it in their backyards.

I am sympathetic to many of the arguments. I don’t want any more environmental damage for example. The Army’s actions should be carefully monitored to be sure they do as little harm as possible. But I am unsympathetic to the NIMBY argument.

If we think our country should have a huge army, then we have to provide a lot of training facilities. And if we are beneficiaries of that Army, then we are, in my opinion, obligated to host a fair share of those facilities in our own backyards. Sending our soldiers on an eight-hour drive to Fort Drum in Western New York is costly and inefficient.

I am a Vietnam Era Veteran. My Reserve Unit was full of paper pushers. But we all had to qualify with weapons. The cooks had to qualify on machine guns. The rest of us used Carbine rifles.

We did all our qualifying at ranges at Camp Edwards. After we finished shooting we would form a long line across the whole range, walk forward slowly and pick up the brass by hand so it could be melted down and used again.

“All I want to see is asses and elbows; asses and elbows…” the First Sergeant would shout, and you couldn’t leave the range until you handed in a fair number of bullet casings. (We left the lead on the ground; but they now capture and remove it.)

If my unit had had to drive to Camp Drum for this training (which we did one year for other reasons) it would have taken much longer and cost the Army much more money. And why should the people of Watertown, New York, be asked to host a shooting range when we won’t?

I am receptive to any argument you want to make to reduce the size of the Army so that we do not need as many facilities. In fact, I am in favor of universal service for all young people, most of whom would serve in organizations like the Peace Corps or AmeriCorps.

Then we could host affordable housing instead of machine guns.


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