Busy summer ahead for Camp Ripley
The camp is expected to host artillery and demolition ranges throughout the 2022 summer.
BAXTER — Thunder and steel rain are in the forecast this summer around Camp Ripley as the installation begins ramping up the number of units it hosts.
Brig. Gen. Lowell Kruse, the Minnesota National Guard's assistant adjutant general and Camp Ripley's senior commander, spoke to the Baxter City Council Tuesday, May 3, to provide an annual overview of Ripley’s $86 billion economic impact.
“What I like to tell people is Camp Ripley is a military training installation and a National Training Center in Minnesota,” Kruse said. “We exist to train your nation's military for our country's worst day. We also exist to train your National Guard for your state's worst day. … The reason why I'm here tonight is to be the best community neighbor I can be. As your adjacent property to the south of the city of Baxter, you're a pretty important neighbor. And so that's the heart of why we're here tonight, to talk about and give you an update of what's happening at camp this summer and throughout the next year.”
The camp is expected to host artillery and demolition ranges throughout the 2022 summer, the sound of which can be heard quite a distance from the installation.
In 2021, Camp Ripley hosted 550,906 Department of Defense along with 68,346 local and state agency personnel days. Each day an individual spends at Camp Ripley is counted toward the overall number of personnel days.
The base houses state partners such as the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources conservation officer headquarters, Minnesota State Patrol training offices, Homeland Security and Emergency Management and the Minnesota Department of Transportation.
In preparation for months of training exercises, the camp will have about 15,000 acres of prescribed burning to create a safe training environment.
“We burn about a fifth of camp off every spring,” Kruse said. “We do that purposely so fire doesn't get away from us and come visit Baxter or Brainerd. Something like that would be our worst nightmare.”
Kruse said they were only about 13% finished as the weather has not worked in their favor. Prescribed burns on the camp's weapon impact areas are used to mitigate the risk of fires starting during training exercises when first responders are not able to be downrange.
As some around Camp Ripley may have already noticed, the personnel on and around the camp is already increasing, jumping from about 52,000 to almost 79,000 personnel days in May as field artillery exercises begin.
Projected as the camp's busiest month with around 99,863 personnel days on base, June will see units coming in from Iowa, North Dakota, Illinois, Missouri and Michigan. The number of units on base also will be ramped up by Minnesota’s National Guard Officer Candidate School.
July and August will see continued demolition and artillery ranges, a youth camp and the start of a State Patrol Academy, keeping at about 60,000 personnel days each month.
September will see the troop count drop to around 34,700 as the camp is used as a Minnesota Department of Transportation snowplow training center from September to October.
Last year, the camp hosted its first rotation through the U.S. Coast Guard winter dive course and hosted its largest open house to date, bringing in about 6,000 visitors while celebrating its 90th birthday.
The next open house will be in 2023.
Future plans in and around the camp include remodeling Nelson Hall, adding an additional rail spur to increase the camp's efficiency and a joint emergency response training center.
Kruse said the future Minnesota Military and Veterans Museum will be located between Veterans Cemetery and Highway 371. Currently in its design stage, the camp has requested an additional $10 million from the Minnesota Legislature to cover the increase in construction and supply costs. The museum is expected to open sometime in 2024 or 2025.