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September 27, 2008, 06:47
Farmer takes pride in allowing land to be used as machine-gun firing range

http://morningsentinel.mainetoday.com/news/local/5357522.html

NORTH ANSON -- The early morning sun sifts through quiet rows of tall cornfields. A handful of crows sings out a strident "caw" as the birds scatter before the intrusion of humans into their idyllic world. The cool depths of the Kennebec River snake around the field nearby.
Suddenly, chaos interrupts nature's lazy routine.
The chatter of belt-fed M240 Bravo and M249 Squad machine guns fills the air. Clips of .308-caliber and .223-caliber bullets spit from the barrels; slugs thunk into the berm some 100 yards away.
Spent shells pile up beside the tripods into which the weapons are fitted; soldiers in combat gear lie belly to the ground, aiming at the targets in front of them.
Here, in the heart of Somerset County -- a world away from war zones in places such as Iraq and Afghanistan -- soldiers train for potential combat.
On this particular Wednesday, 20 members of security forces for the Maine Air National Guard 101st air-refueling wing at Bangor International Airport are doing their annual qualifying combat-ready exercises, said Master Sgt. Gary Bajkowski.
"We've got a lot of bullets to get rid of," Bajkowski says of about 45,000 rounds of ammunition that will be shot at hundreds of rounds per minute. It will take hours.
The unlikely home of this training exercise -- Williams Machine Gun Range -- is smack in the middle of the working fields of Williams Farm, one of the oldest dairy farms in central Maine.
A 30-yard pistol range, a 100-yard rifle range and current construction of a "shoot house" in progress represent a seven-year effort by one of the farm's owners, Andy Williams, who works the farm with father, Harvey, and brother, Richard.
The range is tucked into 27 acres of farmland between the barns and the river. For Williams, it reflects his passion for weapons-training and his belief in well-trained American troops and law enforcement.
"We have forgotten these things," Williams said. "We need to somehow get our pride back in this state. Maine has one of the highest percentage of soldiers being deployed. We should be proud and support them with everything we've got."
Williams, an U.S. army veteran and unit armorer with the second 21st Infantry, recalls his battalion gaining recognition as " 'Best in Battalion' for combat readiness. I'm too old to fight, but I still have got the knowledge to help them."
Williams said he has had few complaints about the noise, which he says echoes up and down the nearby river.
"But generally, when people learn our troops are training here, they're fine with it," he said. Halfway out the half-mile dirt road to Route 8, one could no longer hear the shots.
Surrounded by water on almost three sides with flood plains all around, Williams is confident in the range's seclusion: "It's almost an island."
Williams points to support from the community, such as rock gravel surface work by Jeff Lloyd of Merle Lloyd & Sons and free cement from Mattingly Products.
Clay berms surround the target ranges, permitting no bullets to escape, he pointed out.
Williams said he started working on the range after the Sept. 11 attacks when the Twin Towers were hit: "It bothered me a lot to think of us being attacked on our own soil.
"I started communist weapons training toward familiarizing soldiers to be deployed, for machine guns they will encounter that the enemy has," he said.
Today, he said, he has an organized machine gun club that has three shoots a year. Most of the 40 members are veterans; the rest mostly law enforcement, he said.
"These are combat veterans -- a man who operated a M60 machine gun in Beirut; one who worked a 50-caliber machine gun in Desert Storm, a brother-in-law who was a recon Marine in Vietnam. Honorable men," he said.
Military personnel rent the range for training, he said.
Last fall, a group of soldiers in training for Afghanistan used the course to become familiar with the weapons they would face.
On this Wednesday, in late August, Bajkowski organizes a disciplined shoot. No more than six rounds per burst, he ordered.
Next month, he and his men will return for grenade-launching exercises, Bajkowski and Williams agree over a handshake.
Last month, the 11th Civil Support Team based at the Waterville Armory trained at the facility, Williams said.
A licensed Class III machine-gun dealer, Williams said his range is regulated by the federal Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms. But, he was quick to point out, the bureau's regulations are no stricter than his own.
"I'm very strict. If they don't like it, they don't have to be here. You have to be respectful and careful; safety has to be first or you don't come. I won't tolerate sloppy gun-handling."
Williams said he requires three men at all times in the watch towers at the ends and middle of the range canopies.
When the club meets, Williams said he handles all the details such as guns and ammunition, even meals. Nothing gets by him.
Just before he left Wednesday, Williams cautioned Bajkowski to watch for fires.
The six-room "shoot house" currently under construction will offer perfect training for law enforcement, Williams said. Once equipped with moving mannequins, silhouettes and household furniture, it will simulate a clearinghouse for officers in training, Williams said.
"We should not have to send our SWAT teams out of state for training," he said.
William said he calls the Somerset County Communications Center each time a shoot is planned, so dispatchers are aware of what's happening in case people call in.
The range is dedicated to only law enforcement and military personnel, said Williams, who said he will not open it to spectators.
"My intention is to teach soldiers going overseas how to tear apart and use live fire," he said. "I'm proud to do it."
With that, Williams left the military in charge on Wednesday and returned to do more of what he did the day before: Mow and bale hay.

lew
September 28, 2008, 08:41
Wait, since when does the ATF have to regulate a range? Mind you, I've never run a shooting range, but I don't think the FAT has to be involved.

Also, I may be the only one, but I couldn't help but sense a bit of elitism, either from the owner of the range, or unintentionally by the writer of the article. I wonder how the guy feels about non-veteran civilian ownership of automatic weapons and the like. Hopefully, I'm mistaken.

Either way. sounds like someone's having fun.

stimpsonjcat
October 02, 2008, 20:31
"Clips"?

Of for fiddle's sake!

lew
October 02, 2008, 22:38
Originally posted by stimpsonjcat
"Clips"?

Of for fiddle's sake!

I'z gots a deagle wid beams, yo. Ya dig?

zoom6zoom
October 08, 2008, 18:20
Clips of .308-caliber and .223-caliber bullets spit from the barrels;

Never saw one come out the barrel before!

JDRoberts
October 08, 2008, 20:28
Originally posted by zoom6zoom


Never saw one come out the barrel before!

he's doin it wrong.