Camp Roberts to construct city replica to train troops

Camp Roberts is slated to break ground this fall on a multimillion-dollar training compound designed to replicate a real-world city that would better prepare troops for missions overseas.

It would be used to train the National Guard for missions in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as for future state training operations.

“It’s very high-powered,” Lt. Will Martin said of the multifa­ceted project for the camp near San Miguel that serves Army Reserve and active troops.

The 18-month construction project is planned for vacant land alongside other training areas at the camp.

While its physical size has not yet been disclosed, the buildings would be placed in such a way to replicate urban sprawl.

Commercial and residential buildings, narrow streets and alleys, underground tunnels, a three-story hotel and a police station are among the proposed features.

The California National Guard currently has nearly 2,000 troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. While the new training compound would reflect geographic features of those countries, such as caves, designers have also strived to make it generic.

“Overall, we don’t want it to be real rigid and look just like Baghdad,” Martin said. It should “be able to represent any city for a variety of operations.”

Preparing troops for combat overseas, statewide wildfires or large-scale international peacekeeping missions will also be a focus.

The buildings would be real, not façades. But their construction would focus on functionality, not aesthetics.

“For example, if there’s a bank, it will have an actual teller area but not the marble floors,” Martin said.

Technology would also be a priority. Nearly every square foot of training space is to be monitored by video cameras, officials said, so trainees and instructors can critique and improve on strategies as they watch the footage. A theater-style control room is planned to accommodate classroom instruction and viewings.

Officials announced the project’s bidding process just weeks after a Sacramento Bee article in late March detailed the deteriorating state of the camp’s World War II-era buildings and infrastructure.

While the new training facility and the need to upgrade the camp’s housing are both top priorities, officials said the projects aren’t in competition for federalfunding. That’s because their proposals travel through the government’s funding phases separately and can get caught up in different processes.

Funding for the training project, for example, was first secured in 2007, Martin said, while its design followed in 2008.

Meanwhile, a three-tiered proposal to knock down, rehabilitate and construct fresh buildings for the camp’s living quarters has also been submitted, Martin said, but it’s been recycled through the system an undisclosed number of times. The camp continues to pursue funding for it.

The new training center is estimated to cost between $10 million to $25 million. When asked why the range is so wide, officials said they are prohibited from releasing specific government estimates during the process of seeking bids.

The total contract price would become public information once a bid is accepted, officials said.

Project bids being accepted

Contractors interested in submitting a proposal can visit the Federal Business Opportunities website at www.fbo.gov to review the requirements or call the United States Property & Fiscal Office for California at 594-6248. Bid awards are slated for August, officials said.

The project is restricted to small businesses certified by the Small Business Administration and registered with the Central Contractor Registry.