Frustrated over a lack of community support for a proposed gun range, the executive director of Joint Base Cape Cod, Massachusetts, emailed the local chamber of commerce last week, threatening to prevent his soldiers from patronizing area businesses.
Retired Brig. Gen. Christopher Faux threatened a "conditional confinement" for thousands of troops in an email to Chris Adams, chief of staff of the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce.
The proposed multi-purpose machine gun, or MPMG, range at Camp Edwards, located on Joint Base Cape Cod, would be the first in Massachusetts.
Access to an MPMG range is key to meeting weapons qualifications standards and training requirements, officials say. Currently, the closest range is 270 miles away at Camp Ethan Allen in Jericho, Vermont, according to a study by the Massachusetts National Guard.
"With our impact on local business, it is hard to believe we have heard nothing in support. For that reason, I will be recommending a conditional confinement for the thousands of soldiers that train here each weekend over the summer to The Adjutant General," Faux said in the email. "It truly saddens me to even consider taking these steps, but I am more saddened by the lack of support from the businesses on Cape."
However, Maj. Gen. Gary W. Keefe, the adjutant general of the Massachusetts National Guard, rejected Faux's proposal for conditional confinement, according to the Boston Globe, which first reported on Faux's actions.
Capt. Aaron Smith, a spokesman for the Massachusetts National Guard, said that, "General Faux's comments were not authorized and do not reflect the Massachusetts National Guard's decades-long commitment to support local business on Cape Cod."
The Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce called Faux's statement "shocking" and "extremely insensitive given the last 15 months of pandemic-induced closures and restrictions on local businesses," in a June 4 response obtained by Military.com.
"If General Faux is truly seeking community input at a broad level, he needs to engage the wider community in an effort to go beyond the bare minimum, not issue a threat which is deemed punitive to local businesses," the chamber added.
The Massachusetts National Guard has "remained deeply committed" to "responding to the concerns of our neighbors," Smith told Military.com. "During the range's nine-year design process, which began in 2012, the Guard has convened several conversations to understand the community's concerns, commissioned independent experts to study every environmental impact, and taken time to thoughtfully modify the design to address those factors."
The range has drawn criticism from some community members who are concerned that it will cause environmental damage. It would require up to 170.5 acres of tree clearance and about 5,197 acres to accommodate ammunition falling to the ground.
"Cape Cod has endured a great many impacts from base-sited activities related to water quality, noise and land use access," the chamber of commerce said.
However, a Guards study found that the range would have "no significant impact" on wildlife or people.
Camp Edwards received a 2020 First Place Award from the Secretary of the Army for Environmental Restoration for its mitigation efforts, and the range proposal has design modifications that protect the environment, Smith said. These include "reducing the design footprint and incorporating organic materials [to] allow soldiers to complete their requirements and steward the land entrusted to our care."
"In every initiative at [Joint Base Cape Cod], we remained deeply committed to transparency; understanding and responding to the concerns of our neighbors; and creating opportunities to strengthen our shared community life on Cape Cod," he added.