A late-night training mission with military aircraft has left some residents in Thurston County feeling rattled and confused.
The Olympian received multiple inquiries about low-flying aircraft that had buzzed over neighborhoods across the county late Sunday night and early Monday morning.
As it turns out, the aircraft were part of a “large scale rehearsal” with the second battalion of the 75th Ranger Regiment at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
JBLM spokesman Joe Kubistek confirmed that the training began at 11 p.m. Sunday and concluded about 3 a.m. Monday. The drill involved massive C-130 and C-17 cargo aircraft as well as several helicopters, he said.
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The aircraft left Gray Army Airfield on the JBLM campus after dropping off the rangers for a training exercise. They then circled around while waiting for the rangers to finish their mission and call to get picked up.
“The aircraft were flying in a circular pattern over the Lacey and Olympia area, kind of in a holding pattern, while waiting for the word to pick them up and exit the operation,” Kubistek told The Olympian.
The 75th Ranger Regiment will hold another similar training over local skies in the fall, but a date has not been determined yet, said public affairs officer Tracy Bailey.
JBLM helicopters and planes maintain a regular presence in the region for other training exercises. However, many residents were surprised — and awakened — by the noise from Sunday’s late-night activity.
Robin Ivey-Black, who lives near the Olympia Food Co-op on the city’s west side, heard the aircraft when she went to bed around midnight. She said she has heard more aircraft noise than usual this summer. In fact, Sunday night’s episode led Ivey-Black to start keeping notes on nighttime aircraft hovering above her neighborhood, which she said is usually quiet.
Lacey resident Krista Peterson also wanted to know why a small aircraft had been circling over her Clearbrook neighborhood near Lacey Boulevard and Carpenter Road. It was loud enough to wake her up around 1 a.m. Monday.
“It flew low over our house every eight minutes or so,” she told The Olympian in an email, noting that after the small plane stopped, a large plane flew overhead. “Planes never fly over this neighborhood.”
The Port of Olympia owns the Olympia Regional Airport and often fields complaints from the public over aircraft noise, regardless of the source.
Last weekend, Port executive director Ed Galligan said, the port received quite a few calls about the Sunday night flights — which he also heard from his home on West Bay.
JBLM had notified the port that the training would run July 17-22. The port then contacted nearly 2,000 people about the training through an email list, said Galligan, who was unaware the training would continue beyond the original date.
“We have no control over where the military does their training,” Galligan said. “They’re closer than you would think” he said of the base.
I.V. Anders, who lives near Cleveland Avenue and North Street just east of Tumwater Square, said the low-flying aircraft woke her up around 2 a.m. Monday.
“It shook the house,” Anders said of the late-night military activity, the first she has encountered since moving to the neighborhood five years ago. “It sounded more like bombers.”
Anders said that after the noise subsided an hour later, she finally got back to sleep.
Residents who have a complaint about military aircraft noise can call a Joint Base Lewis-McChord hotline at 253-967-0852.