- Associated Press - Saturday, February 8, 2014

FORT HUACHUCA, Ariz. (AP) - This southern Arizona post has a multitude of special assets it can provide to not only the Army, but to other services as well, Garrison Commander Col. Dan McFarland said.

“As it relates to national security strategy, we’re looking at expanding capability first and capacity second in making Fort Huachuca more attractive,” he said.

The growing need is for joint interagency special operations and the post terrain offers a critical aspect in fulfilling future training for the armed forces, said McFarland, who spoke recently with the Herald/Review in a more than an hour-long interview.

Already the Army’s major unmanned aerial systems (UAS) training facility, “we are actively pursuing certificates of authorization which will allow our unmanned aerial systems to leave Fort Huachuca airspace to go to the Goldwater Range or White Sands. We are in the process of negotiating that right now,” he said. The Goldwater facility is in the Gila Bend region of the state and White Sands is in New Mexico.

Also being looked at is developing a UAS laser range, which has been a demand from the UAS community, McFarland said.

Additionally, “we are looking at sniper ranges that the special ops community has asked us to look into, too, because it is very difficult to train from high positions and we have the unique terrain to let us do that,” the garrison commander said.

With adjacent U.S. Forest Service land, additional special operations training, without impacting the environment, can also be accomplished, he said.

The fort can replicate much of the high terrain U.S. forces may encounter, as it has when it comes to places like Afghanistan, McFarland said.

Already the fort has the unique Hubbard Air Strip for high altitude training, the colonel said, adding “at 4,000 feet altitude, it is the only one in terms of being dirt-certified for high altitude touch and goes.”

Also being explored is modified aerial gunnery range on the fort, to be used by military services for quarterly or annual training, McFarland said.

Of course the fort leadership and others have to show that the installation has the capabilities to support various training in the coming eras of smaller defense budgets, by showing specialized training on the post will be cost-effective, the colonel said.

“We are trying to expand on what people don’t know about Fort Huachuca to come out and say ‘yes, I can’t replicate that anywhere else.’ So, when you look at bringing in people to use the fort for training venues, that is a significant expansion,” McFarland said.

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