CAMP RIPLEY -- Gov. Tim Pawlenty didn't do any shooting Wednesday but security and military preparedness were the order of the day as he toured Camp Ripley's new $1.6 million live-fire facility.
Pawlenty tried to cajole Public Safety Commissioner Rich Stanek, an on-leave Minneapolis police officer, to fire a few rounds but the governor's schedule allowed only a quick tour of the training facility before he headed to Fergus Falls and then Alexandria Wednesday night.
"We live in extraordinary times," Pawlenty said, noting the current war with Iraq and the sluggish economy. "It's an exciting time. In times of challenge we also see innovation."
Just hours before his arrival at the National Guard training facility north of Little Falls, Pawlenty toured the Monticello nuclear power plant and announced National Guard troops would be pulled from their posts there.
Pawlenty said ongoing discussions with the FBI convinced him the current threat level justified such action. National Guard troops were dispatched to beef up anti-terrorism security at the plant last Wednesday when war broke out. Troops also were pulled from the Prairie Island nuclear plant and a Twin Cities water treatment facility. Pawlenty said local law enforcement will enhance their security efforts at sensitive locations.
"They're in place," he said of local police and county sheriff's deputies. "They're up to it."
Full deployment cost $60,000 per day, said Pawlenty spokesman Dan Wolter.
Capt. Guy Konietzko, range control officer at Camp Ripley, conducted the tour for Pawlenty, Stanek and a news media contingent.
The live-fire facility or shoot house is designed to provide law enforcement and military personnel with realistic training where they can use firearms in a building that simulates the type of location they might have to enter and occupy. Images from 41 video surveillance cameras are monitored from a nearby control center and tapes are made of the trainees' actions. Walls of the building are lined with bulletproof materials made of high density rubber panels to provide a non-ricochet surface that will encapsulate bullets. To deal with air quality issues stemming from the use of lead bullets the shoot house has air units that can conduct a complete exchange of oxygen within 1 1/2 minutes.
The trip to the Little Falls area was a homecoming of sorts for Pawlenty, who said his great-grandparents emigrated from Poland to the area. He said his father grew up in the Little Falls area before moving to South St. Paul, where the governor grew up.
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