It’s a bit noisier on Fort Benning ranges since the Armor School started conducting gunnery exercises. And the sound and vibration may be surprising for some of the post’s neighbors.
“People have moved into the area and they may not have known what Fort Benning is really about and are surprised to hear these sounds,” said John Brent, chief of the Environmental Management Division at Fort Benning.
As the home of the Army’s Maneuver Center of Excellence, Fort Benning is the focal point for preparing Armor, Cavalry and Infantry Soldiers to fight, and win, the country’s wars — training 145,000 Soldiers a year.
Brent said when range designers looked at training requirements, noise and neighborhoods were part of the equation. The concern was to contain the majority of the noise on the installation and away from other populations. But sound travels through the air and instead of hearing one tank, there will be several and the sound will be continuous instead of sporadic.
“The noise level won’t increase,” William Russell, then-program manager for Army Operation Noise, told Benning TV in 2007. “What will increase is the frequency of the noise.”
Russell said studies showed the noise would rattle windows but the vibrations from the noise were unlikely to crack foundations or plasters, which is normally attributed to one or two things — the way the building is constructed and the soil it’s on.
“We have, for instance, buildings right next to ranges and if this was true they would have fallen down a long time ago,” he said.
For those concerned about the effects of the noise, the noise does not have negative health effects, except for individuals on the ranges and that is why they are required to wear hearing protection, Brent said.
But what are the effects of noise and vibrations on animals and the environment?
The red-cockaded woodpecker, listed as an endangered species by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, is acclimating to the noise, Brent said.
“We have woodpeckers that have moved into range areas because they are not affected by it,” he said. “And one natural way to keep the noise minimal is by using trees. The forests act as buffers between the noise and the neighborhoods.”
According to the Department of Defense website, two programs address issues concerning land use between the military and civilians — the Installation Operational Noise Management Plan and the Joint Land Use Study. The Installation Operational Noise Management Plan, formerly called the Installation Compatible Use Zone, was created in 1983 and identifies areas affected by noise and seeks cooperative solutions in reducing problems. The Joint Land Use Study, started in 1985, encourages local communities and decision-makers, as well as installation representatives, to address and study issues in an open forum.