Watch: Rare glimpse inside Northeast Ohio training camp where soldiers learn to handle explosives


RAVENNA, Ohio (WJW) – Since the 1940s, the base currently known as Camp James A. Garfield has served the United States military in various capacities, continuing at present as a joint training site for the Ohio National Guard.

On Wednesday, Fox 8 News was given a rare glimpse inside the gates of Camp Ravenna to observe soldiers training to become Combat Engineers.

Their first opportunity to handle live explosives.

It is only within the last year the base has had a demolition range where soldiers can practice what they are learning by detonating explosives there.

“I’ve been an instructor here since 2015 so we used to go everywhere else and now we do it here and it actually adds a little more to the training for us because we have a little more time to do additional training,” said SFC Ronald Fry, a 28-year member of the Army Reserves and the National Guard.

Combat Engineers are trained to clear improvised explosive devices and other obstacles that might threaten the lives of soldiers and the completion of their mission in combat.

It can be a risky job in the military, but soldiers at Camp James. A Garfield on Wednesday praised the training they are getting there.

“The instructors have taught us well and you know actually applying it in real world situations it’s great,” said SSgt Joseph Prashun of Indiana, who is changing his military occupation after already serving eleven years.

“You get to play with explosives, it’s the American dream, right?” said Prashun.

“Just seeing the actual explosion going off it was pretty exciting, it was pretty cool,” said PFC Devin Rios, a former U.S. Marine from southern Ohio, now a member of the Ohio National Guard.

The hands-on training soldiers were getting on Wednesday, involved the use of various military explosives, including C4, some more powerful than others.

“It’s a pretty prestigious thing. There’s not many of these in the entire country so the soldiers that are coming here are getting training that could potentially save lives and potentially be required down range,” said Fry.

When it was known as the Ravenna Arsenal, the base provided many of the munitions that were used by the United States Military through World War II through the Vietnam war.

Since the late 1990s, the base has been in the hands of the Ohio National Guard as a training ground for soldiers from across the country with the National Guard, the Reserves and Active Duty.

“We have a couple from California in this class, Florida, you name it in the country, we have had them here,” said Fry.

The base also provides training in numerous other disciplines with grenade ranges, and qualifying instruction for small arms to the .50 caliber weapon among others.

“It’s a lot nicer to have it here in our back yard instead of having to go to another state to fire it off,” said Fry.

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