Paintball course opens at old golf driving range

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Photo by James Yeargin, Fort Irwin FMWR

Splattered paint marked the beginning of a new phase in the life of an underused pitch-and-putt course and driving range here.

On March 12, a crowd of about 60 mostly teens and 20-somethings saw acting garrison commander Lt. Col. Graham Swenson and Command Sgt. Maj. Carl Esmurria initiate the paintball course, by racing through the ply-board and conex village to plop their balls of paint at targets hung on buildings at opposite ends of the three-acre village. Later, the spectators donned battle gear of paintball masks and vests and engaged in running battles for bragging rights that afternoon.

The site of the new paintball course started as a suggestion by Fort Irwin United States Army Garrison Commander Col. Jon Braga more than a year ago. The original intent was to build a paintball course near the outdoor recreation office, but construction of the water treatment plant took away that option. The vision was realized this month, built with in-house experience of Family, Morale, Welfare and Recreation and NTC Operations personnel.

“We have people on the staff who are paintball enthusiasts, so they really have the expertise to offer,” said Jenna Bickel, Fort Irwin FMWR recreation specialist. “We also had great assistance from G3 (National Training Center Operations). They built the three-dimensional targets, including tank mockups and let us use their excess sheds and small buildings. We will be expanding the course and want to make it look like what’s out there in ‘the box’ (National Training Center training range).”

Bickel said the course is open to anyone on Fort Irwin and is open seven days a week, during daylight hours. Youths 14 years old and younger must have proper adult supervision by a parent or legal guardian.

“We do encourage players to organize as groups, so people aren’t there by themselves,” Bickel said.

Outdoor recreation manager Ed Iden said there is no fee for using the course, but users must sign up at the Outdoor Recreation office on Goldstone Road, past Outer Loop Road. Players can use their own gear, or they can rent equipment when they sign up. The office has dozens of paintball sets at $15 a set that include a marker (paintball gun), hopper (paintball loader), CO2 air tank, mask and a vest. Paintballs are $10 for a bag of 500 paintballs. For more information, call 380-3771.

For now, the golf facility is closed, but the golfing area will be redesigned so the pitch and putt course can be used and another area designated for a driving range.