In a secret location, hidden between cornfields and a farmstead off West Fletcher Avenue, the Air National Guard works in the sweltering heat, building a new firing range for the Lincoln Police Department.
The civil engineering troops arrived quietly in mid-July and will continue their work until Sept. 2. In just a month they’ve taken an 80-acre piece of dirt and turned it into what will be LPD's law enforcement training center.
The 67 Air National Guard members have installed 1,100 linear feet of conduit, placed 260 tons of stones, moved earth, built a range control tower and a building with two classrooms, placed a septic system in the ground and built a 178-foot-long ballistic protection knee wall.
The troops have racked up 8,200 hours of Innovative Readiness Training on the project -- and they’re not finished.
“They absolutely hit the ground running,” Master Sgt. Mitch Sisco said Tuesday.
Sisco is the project manager and came to Lincoln from Tulsa, Oklahoma, to lead the training. Other personnel have come from Georgia, Michigan and Pennsylvania to get training that Sisco calls amazing.
“This is a realistic training opportunity to put our hands on and has amazing training value,” he said, explaining the personnel are in the Reserves and don’t do this kind of work full-time.
“We have other jobs, and in the event we are called in to deploy, this gives us the knowledge and experience to have a successful mission," Sisco said. "Normally, we’d just be digging holes and filling them back up. ... We're basically just a giant construction company.”
Lincoln police hope to open the range in October. They’ve been sharing the Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office range since closing theirs in January 2014.
The new range sits on land rented from the Lincoln Airport Authority. According to the lease agreement, the city can rent the land for as long as 50 years.
The range gives LPD officers more opportunity to train at night and outdoors without bothering neighbors.
The Air National Guard labor has allowed LPD to stretch its budget, said Lincoln Police Sgt. Ryan Dale. Money for the project came from departmental funds and donations from local contractors and organizations including The Clark Enerson Partners, Gana Excavating and Hampton Commercial Construction, who all have parts in the project.
The cost to the city is approximately $1.6 million and includes environmental clean-up work at the old range, Police Chief Jeff Bliemeister said. The department has been saving since realizing the previous location would need replacement.
The costs of equipment and labor from Innovative Readiness Training is not included in the cost.