The Camp Branch site owned by Alpha Natural Resources in Logan County used to be a surface mine. Now, it has been turned into an airstrip for the West Virginia National Guard.
Alpha and the WV National Guard have been working together for months to utilize the reclaimed land at the Camp Branch site. It's standard protocol for a mining company to replant trees and even out ground after mining is complete, but this project is extremely unique.
"It is the only one of its kind in the Country" say Brigadier General David Buckalew with the West Virginia National Guard. What makes this landing zone so special? It looks exactly like what a solider would see overseas.
Until now, the WV National Guard has trained its pilots on paved or partially paved landing strips. While using those types of facilities helps pilots get better at landing, they didn't get to experience the dusty and rough landings that they see while in combat.
This site is also unique because it has minimal lighting. "Pilots often land in dark areas during battle" says pilot Allen Tackett with the WV National Guard , they can use night vision goggles at the Camp Branch location just like they would if they were under attack.
The unique terrain has caught some international attention. Units from South Carolina, Missouri, and even the Royal British Air Force have trained there.
With new interest in this Logan County airstrip, economy is booming. When people come there to train they will usually stay over night. That means they are staying in Logan hotels, shopping around town, and dining around the area.
This project seems to be a win-win for everyone. Alpha and the National Guard are interested in starting similar projects at closed mines across the state.