Camp Lejeune’s secret defender: Blackburn
Story by LCpl Taylor Smith on 08/14/2019
Blackburn, a section of range control, supports Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune and Marine Corps Air Station New River by ensuring everyday operations for training events and field operations carry on according to plan. They also monitor 98,000 acres of land, 11 miles of coastline and 200 miles of airspace to keep training areas safe.
To ensure the safety of all service members, Blackburn is manned 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 365 days a year by only 12 people who work eight hour shifts. All employees of Blackburn are required to have specific qualifications, such as prior military service, special training with weapons and how range operations flow.
“It is critical to have a knowledge of weapons and ammunitions and how they work in the real world,” said Frank Manfre, the senior fire desk officer for Blackburn. “It provides a real world view on how they deal with situations.”
Manfre explained that the knowledge that comes with a prior service background ensures that the fire desk operators know how to handle any situation properly and in a timely manner. Blackburn manages an average of 150 events per day, which is why it is crucial to have experienced members on the team.
“We used to be a person sitting here with a grease pencil and a handheld radio trying to track all the training,” Manfre said. “Now, we have a video wall and real time cameras to track the ranges. This has been a tremendous upgrade to our operations.”
Every day can bring different challenges for the individuals that work at Blackburn. Something seemingly small can easily turn into a larger issue, and Blackburn is there to take control.
Blackburn moved to a new facility on May 1, 2019. “This new facility has helped MCB Camp Lejeune become the second best facility across the United States, only bested by the Pentagon,” Manfre said. The new Blackburn layout on MCB Camp Lejeune will become the model for all Marine Corps bases across the board.