Trespassers Interfering with Fort Bragg Training, Officials Say

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M4A1 Carbine Sniper Rifle at Fort Bragg
U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Terry Wetzel, a 2nd Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division paratrooper, fires his M4A1 Carbine Sniper Rifle at Fort Bragg, North Carolina on Aug. 30, 2018. (U.S. Army photo/Brian Stephenson)

Last year, Fort Bragg soldiers training as snipers were hidden in the woods on post when an all-terrain vehicle came speeding past them.

That type of incident happens too frequently for Fort Bragg officials, who are warning residents to stay away from training areas on post.

Trespassing on Army property is a federal offense and dangerous, officials say. Intrusions make it harder for Fort Bragg to accomplish its mission and cost the Army money, they say.

Fort Bragg's training complex covers 178,000 acres, said Wolf Amacker, Fort Bragg's range control officer.

In the past 12 years, at least three people have been killed in those areas.

Last year, a man drowned at Mott Lake, which is used as a drop zone and for scuba training.

In 2011, a man running on a trail was shot by a hunter who thought he was a deer.

In 2009, a man was killed in an explosion while looking for scrap metal on an artillery range.

Amacker said incidents on training areas have picked up recently because of COVID-19. Many people have spent most of their time at home over the past few months because of the disease, which is caused by a coronavirus.

"Now that some of the restrictions have been relaxing, everybody wants to get away from home," Amacker said. "That's understandable, but there are parks and recreational areas made specifically for that purpose."

Tom McCollum, a Fort Bragg spokesman, said law enforcement officers issued four citations for trespassing last weekend. Civilians can be charged with federal offenses, while soldiers are subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, he said.

Amacker said that at any time on Fort Bragg, multiple live-fire exercises are going on and large vehicles are moving around.

"The training activities that we conduct here on Fort Bragg are not safely compatible with recreational activities," he said.

Razor wire that is prevalent in training areas on post can badly hurt a person, Amacker said.

"If you're driving through it on an ATV, it will cut you to pieces," he said. "That stuff is out there by the truckload."

People using the post for recreation also leave trash, McCollum said. Fort Bragg officials set aside two weeks each year to clean up the garbage, Amacker said.

Four-wheel-drive vehicles have damaged dirt landing strips, making them unusable for training activities, Amacker said. The strips are made of clay, which is easily damaged when wet, he said.

"You can't land aircraft on it if it's rutted up and damaged from vehicles traveling on it," he said.

Fort Bragg has been an artillery training post since 1917, Amacker said. Last year, 15 unexploded bombs were found on post, he said.

"It's important for people to know they can't be out on the training areas unsupervised," he said.

On Thursday, Amacker talked with reporters at Mott Lake, where fishing is allowed but swimming and recreational boating are not. While he was speaking, a pickup and a minivan pulled up. Across the lake, a man and his dog were playing in the water.

"It's a combination of they don't care and they don't know," he said.

This article is written by Steve DeVane from The Fayetteville Observer, N.C. and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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