A facility unlike anything Huntsville has ever seen will open this week, bringing law enforcement from both the Huntsville Police Department and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) together under one roof.
We’re talking about the brand-new Huntsville Firearms Training Facility on 325 Wall Triana Highway. With 14,000 square feet of indoor training and conference rooms, a fitness center and seven training sites on approximately 40 acres, the facility will be a model for quality police training across Alabama and the greater Southeast.
As the FBI has expanded its presence in Huntsville, Special Agent in Charge Johnnie Sharp, Jr. said its Birmingham division pitched in over $5 million to make the project happen.
“We saw the need of having a state-of-the-art training facility here,” he said. “So, we thought, what better way to get that than to partner with the Huntsville Police Department and merge our resources together so we could build a fine facility that’s top-notch for the region and not just for the state of Alabama?”
In addition to the features listed above, the Huntsville Firearms Training Facility boasts a 40-lane outdoor firing range, 270-degree all-purpose range and 600-yard rifle range.
Another highlight is the 7,500-square-foot tactical training building, where law enforcement can deploy non-lethal ammunition to prepare for real-life scenarios.
The facility has air conditioning and heating, iPad-controlled lights, moveable walls and doors, and various door handles/knobs. This flexibility allows instructors to easily configure the building to look like an apartment, office space, residence or other structure officers may encounter on-the-job.
“We have the ability to go inside, move walls and move doors, change lighting,” said HPD Officer and Range Master Jason Brightwell. “It allows officers to work on their tactics and their training and improve as opposed to do just doing what the building gives them.”
‘Couldn’t be happier’
HPD Captain DeWayne McCarver said he began working on the project with Architect Darryl Bird, City Project Manager Mark Thomas and FBI Special Agent Scott Keeler about two years ago. They started by doing extensive research on firing ranges and tactical shooting facilities throughout the country.
Satisfied with their findings, they composed plans for a progressive, efficient training facility that would not only serve HPD and the FBI now, but for decades to come.
“We couldn’t be happier,” McCarver said. “Not only is it extremely functional – down to details you’d just never think about – but it’s also gorgeous. It’s a beautiful facility and one we’ll be proud of for many years.”
Our police force is going to be the largest police force in the entire state, so our level of training has to be the best in the country.”
HPD Chief Mark McMurray, who has been with the force 35 years, said this is the first time the police department has had its own weapons training facility.
Not having a facility of their own made it hard to schedule training, especially during inclement weather. McMurray said the new facility on Wall Triana Highway will be available through every season and offer the highest level of officer training available.
“We have projected Huntsville to be the biggest city here in the state of Alabama in the next few years,” Chief McMurray said. “To meet that need, we have to prepare ourselves. Our police force is going to be the largest police force in the entire state, so our level of training has to be the best in the country.”
One of the things McCarver is most looking forward to is the ability to open the complex to outside agencies.
“This facility is really big and we have a lot of room,” he said. “We want to staff it almost full-time out here so that we can provide this type of training to all our law enforcement partners.”
That’s important because, as North Alabama grows, law enforcement will continue to routinely work with officers outside their jurisdictions.
“We’re excited to be able to offer this opportunity to them because it benefits not only us and the officers, but the community,” McCarver said. “They get police forces around the area that are used to training together and get the same types of firearms training.”
Brightwell, a 13-year veteran of HPD, agrees. As the department increases in size and enhances its training abilities, he believes HPD’s efforts will set a precedent all law enforcement can learn from.
“My ultimate goal is for Huntsville and our police department to become the standard that everybody, not just in Alabama but the entire Southeast, wants to come here to be involved in training,” he said. “So that we can move forward and not be stuck in patterns of police work from decades ago. We can move forward into the 2020s and even further.”
My ultimate goal is for Huntsville and our police department to become the standard that everybody, not just in Alabama but the entire Southeast, wants to come here to be involved in training.”
Sharp, Jr. said the FBI hopes to secure more funding for Phase III of the Huntsville Firearms Training Facility. He said the phase would include additional enhancements to make the campus a better “one-stop-shop” for law enforcement training.
“I truly believe that once all is said and done, this will be a state-of-the-art facility that will be a national-level resource, certainly for the FBI but also for the other local and state law enforcement partners,” he said.