The Jefferson Proving Ground
(JPG) closed in 1995 and to this day many people would think
its closed and theres no one out there. The Air
National Guard (Air Force) active duty unit would beg to differ!
At the Jefferson Bombing Range, an air to ground bombing range
located inside the old proving ground, just outside of New Marion,
is a unit of 10 active duty soldiers who are considered Active
Guard Reserve (AGR). The unit is a Geographically Separated
Unit (GSU) because of its proximity to any military base. The
men and women who serve in the unit are mostly Hoosiers from
areas such as Milan, Madison and Shelbyville. Those stationed
at JPG will not get stationed elsewhere and most of them stay
at the Range until they are ready to retire.
The unit supports all branches of the military and all aircraft
types for training but mostly the Indiana Air National Guards
122nd Fighter Wings A-10 aircraft from Ft. Wayne.
The mission of the Range is to provide a training place for
pilots to get bombs and bullets on target. Aircraft fly over
the range to drop ordnance daily; but no fear, all ordnance
used at the Range is inert - non-explosive. They also facilitate
Close Air Support training for troops on the ground to practice
calling in air strikes, combat search and rescue exercises and
many other types of training. Units come from military bases
all around the country and even bases outside the country to
train at the Range.
The airspace for aircraft using the Jefferson Bombing Range
is from 24,000 feet down to the ground. Aircraft cannot operate
if there is less than three miles of visibility.
Atop the control tower targets not visible on the ground are
visible high above the 1,100 acres that make up the Jefferson
Bombing Range. The tower, new to the unit, allows them to monitor
weather conditions, and provide immediate feedback to the pilots
on the accuracy of their training tests through electronic scoring.
The unit is basically the few and forgotten except to those
units who use them and could not meet their training mission
without the men and women that make up the Jefferson Bombing
Range unit. Without the Range, seven of the Midwest fighter
units could not satisfy training requirements mandatory for
war readiness, which would result in their termination. Units
have participated in enforcing the no-fly zones
over Iraq and many participated in the war to free Iraq.
A typical workweek at Jefferson Range is Monday through Friday
7 a.m. to 4 p.m. and it is also open one weekend a month to
support traditional guard and reserve units. The schedule sometimes
varies in the winter to accommodate night training requirements.
Typically, this occurs Tuesday through Thursday once a month.
These night operations run from approximately 1 p.m. to 10 p.m.
According to the Jefferson Bombing Ranges informational
brochure, construction of the Jefferson Range began in October
1976 under the watchful eye of Captain Lawrence Williams. Originally,
a simple range configuration was used to include two strafe
pit targets and a bomb circle. The U.S. Army Jefferson Proving
Ground explosive demolition personnel assisted in clearing the
proposed target areas of unexploded ordnance (UXO) before a
small mountain of dirt was hauled in to buildup the target area
In April 1977, a flight of F-100s from the 122nd Fighter Wing
was the first flight flown over the newly established air-ground
gunnery range. One Range Control Officer and four enlisted personnel
were assigned to the range on opening day. In its first year
of operation the Range supported, 1,350 sorties. In recent years,
the Range has supported 1,800 different sorties. Jefferson Range
has expanded its missions to include: three strafe pit targets,
a conventional bomb circle and over 13 tactical targets supporting
precision guided munitions, laser, and night vision detection
training for fighter units from the surrounding states.
Other duties of the Air National Guard unit at the Jefferson
Range include taking care of the Big Oak National Wildlife Refuge.
Upon termination of the U.S. Armys mission at JPG the
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Air National Guard signed
a Memorandum of Agreement.
The agreement governs the conduct of their services, operations
and activities at the Refuge. The Air National Guard is responsible
for: inspection and maintenance of 50 miles of the perimeter
chain link fence, mowing 500 acres of grass, grading 30 miles
of gravel roads, keeping Old Timbers Lodge watertight and pest
free, maintaining 17 miles of paved road surface and annual
inspection and maintenance of four historic stone-arch bridges.
The Air Guard spends approximately $300,000 a year satisfying
the obligation to the agreement and takes pride in satisfying
the needs of the Range and Refuge.
So yes, the Jefferson Proving Ground is closed, but the Jefferson
Bombing Range is up and running providing our military with
the best training possible. Hopefully, now the few and forgotten
can lose their forgotten title!