by Jennie Zeitler, Staff Writer
Camp Ripley Commander Col. Scott St. Sauver presented his annual report to the Morrison County Board of Commissioners Tuesday, highlighting the summer’s training activities, recent improvements at the camp and underscoring the impact Camp Ripley makes in Morrison County.
“Even though we are caught up in the sequester, our mission hasn’t changed,” said St. Sauver. “We still train units to deploy.”
St. Sauver described the dramatic increase of the civilian infrastructure of the camp’s training mission, from what used to be an 80/20 split for military and civilian to a projected 70/30 split in the next five years, and ultimately a 60/40 division for the next 10 years.
“We won’t be as busy this summer as we were last year, but we will be as loud,” he said.
Several components of the 682nd Engineer Battalion will be training in May along with other units. There will also be a class of Department of Natural Resources (DNR) officers training.
In June, training will encompass helicopters from New Ulm with a Marine Corps Reserve unit supporting the helicopters, including much all-night flying at the north end of the camp.
“July won’t be nearly as busy as in years past,” he said. “There will be units from Iowa and New Jersey.”
An armor unit from Ohio will be training in August, with tanks and equipment that is housed at Camp Ripley.
There will be teen/youth camps through both July and August as well.
St. Sauver described the potential effects of the federal budget sequester to Camp Ripley, which employs 382 federal technicians.
“We do not yet know exactly what the furlough will look like,” he said. “It could be up to 14 days, although it has come down from 21. That will have a significant effect on us, especially if it happens in the summertime.”
Allocation of ammunition is a concern, although what is required through May has already been received.
The ability to support some local civilian activities has been curtailed, as all flyovers have had to be cancelled.
“The only flying we’re doing is for training missions,” St. Sauver said.
The ranges that Camp Ripley needs for the next 20 years are being built now, with the money already allocated.
“We will be maintaining what we already have for the next 10 years,” he said. “We’ve received funding for this year for the most part, but anticipate being asked to pay a portion back. But we think than even in a sequester year there will be end-of-year funds available.”
Camp Ripley is state-owned, but is primarily federally funded.
Shadow unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are currently being flown at Camp Ripley.
“The UAVs are only being flown in the restricted airspace over Camp Ripely,” St. Sauver said. “They sound like a flying lawn mower. None of the UAVs at Camp Ripley has a weapons-carrying platform.”
The Federal Aviation Association (FAA) is looking for six test sites to validate tracking and reliability and uses for the UAVs.
“I am involved in that process. It would be a great project for Central Minnesota, with a potential economic base for manufacturing,” St. Sauver said. “Large UAVs would not be flying at Camp Ripley, since we do not have the space.”
St. Sauver noted that a UAV maintenance program at Northland Community and Technical College in Thief River Falls and a flight program at the University of North Dakota puts Camp Ripley in a very advantageous position to be a test site, with benefits to Morrison County.
“We are ambassadors to the community,” said St. Sauver. “Anything we can provide for the community — we want to be involved.”