Residents brace for weapons firing at Fort Benning before holidays

benw@ledger-enquirer.comNovember 14, 2013 

Crew members of an M1A2 Abrams tank prepare to move the tank into position for a test firing Wednesday morning at Fort Benning in 2010.

MIKE HASKEY — mhaskey@ledger-enquirer.com

With two major holidays approaching, residents in the Midland, Upatoi and the northeast region of Muscogee County also are bracing for more heavy weapons training at Fort Benning.

“Many of the people who live out here have pets that are terrified of the heavy firing,” said retired Army Lt. Col. Terry Gumbert of Midland. “We always have a rash of lost animals who run off in terror if they are not controlled.”

In the latest schedule for weapons firing, soldiers will be training until Nov. 27, before taking a break for Thanksgiving. Firing resumes on Dec. 2 and continues until Dec. 19, before training is suspended for the Christmas holidays.

Gumbert has notified some 2,000 residents in the region through his neighborhood e-mail alert system. The training will include firing of 120 mm rounds for the M1 Abrams tank, the .50-caliber machine gun and demolition with C-4 plastic explosives.

Range manager Skip Caldwell said the C-4 explosive is pretty loud. “If it’s a 45-pound charge, it’s going to be loud,” he said.

While most of the firing ends at midnight, training with the .50-caliber will run until 2 a.m. from Nov. 20-23.

“All of the rest are stopping at midnight,” Caldwell said.

In addition to impacting pets, Gumbert said some people in the region are terrified of the loud noises. “We do have some people who live out here with problems like that,” he said.

To keep his two rescued pets calm, Gumbert said he has medication to help the dogs cope with the repeated firing.

“I have to medicate them when the firing begins,” the retired officer said. “It helped a little bit, but believe me, it does not help entirely. They go in and shake like a leaf.”

Price Lawrence, of Northside Animal Hospital, said there are a number of things pet owners can do to relieve some of the conflicts experienced by pets with noises. “A loud noise would be like somebody playing rock music for hours and hours,” Lawrence said. “Eventually, it will drive to madness.”

Many pets are on medication for storms, lightning, fireworks and similar types of noises. “A lot of times during the Fourth of July, people come in and fill up for medication for pets,” Lawrence said.

The Maneuver Center of Excellence, which includes the U.S. Infantry and Armor Schools, fires more than 42 million rounds each year to keep soldiers sharp. Caldwell said the firing includes all munitions, even small arms and blanks.

Before the Armor School arrived from Fort Knox, Ky, the post was firing more than other Army installations. More firing was added with the new school.

Although he served two decades in the Army, Gumbert questions why the firing impacts residential areas near the post?

“I don’t know whose idea it was to believe that tank firing of that magnitude near a residential region was acceptable,” he said. “Somewhere, someone made a decision. Personally, I think we are a little bit off the mark a bit.”

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