HATTIESBURG, MS (WLOX) - Camp Shelby officials want the public to know about safety procedures at the base's firing ranges.
That attention to public safety comes in the wake of the federal case. It involves men who allegedly stole unexploded ordinances, turning them into scrap metal.
Tuesday, Camp Shelby's range officer gave WLOX News a tour of the so-called 'impact area' where one defendant testified he's been stealing rounds for nearly 25 years.
The base officials would not comment directly on the case involving the stolen anti-tank rounds, which the defendant admits were taken from the impact area of Camp Shelby. The emphasis of our visit was safety and the precautions in place to keep both soldiers and the general public safe from potentially dangerous areas on and around the firing ranges.
"The one we're coming up on is 46-Bravo," said the driver, as he escorted a reporter to the impact area.
The first thing you should know about Camp Shelby: the place is enormous; nearly 140,000 acres in all. Of that, about 13,000 acres make-up the so-called 'impact area' where the firing ranges are located. We noticed plenty of signage and fencing the moment we entered that impact or closure area.
"That is our job, safety. That's our primary focus, to make sure not only are the soldiers, sailors and airmen but also that the public is taken care of in a safe manner. As you can see, the signs are everywhere," said Lt. Col. Rick Weaver, who works as the range control officer.
Range 46 Alpha is considered H.E. or high explosives, where the heavy artillery is used. Anti tank rounds are shot there. It's also where the most danger exists and the most precautions.
"Certain H.E. ranges like this one, as you can see, have not only the signs but also the barbed wire fencing to make sure it's enclosed. This one you had to go through two fences, two gates, just to get to the range," Weaver explained.
Someone choosing to ignore the warning signs and the barbed wire and the frequent patrols, could get access and get in trouble there.
Despite the security measures, public roads surround the 'impact area.'
"Public roads actually go all the way around it. 360 degrees around. That's why you see everywhere we have fencing. We have gates posted. Gates are locked. They're checked at least twice a day by roving guards," said Weaver.
Not only are there hundreds of signs and plenty of barbed wire, there are also stringent safety measures taken on the range itself. For instance, the grass is allowed to grow long here, because it's far too dangerous to run a lawn mower through it.
Lt. Col Weaver says the vast majority of Camp Shelby's neighbors understand and respect the impact area and potential dangers it presents. Still, there's a chance someone could stumble upon an ordinance.
"If you see it, if you don't know what it is or you do know what it is, don't pick it up. Call somebody, either ATF, your local police department, fire department or call us here at Camp Shelby. And we'll come out and take a look at it. Safety first. And that's always," he cautioned.