During the 2019 year, officials with the Camp Robinson Maneuver Training Center issued more than 21 noise alerts to the general public and around six prescribed burn alerts.
“We want to be good community partners,” John R. “Bob” Oldham, public affairs specialist with the Arkansas National Guard, said. “If we’re going to impact folks outside our fence line, we owe them a heads up that it’s coming. We don’t want to scare them.”
Unfortunately, due to a slight oversight on their part, that’s exactly what happened this past week.
A noise alert was released Jan. 9 warning of training exercises to be performed on the ranges at the center from Jan. 10-12. Camp Robinson warned that the “noises and associated sounds,” would likely carry outside the center’s boundaries but neglected to inform the public what exactly they would be experiencing.
After the training began on Saturday, social media users immediately took to platforms like Facebook to discuss what was going on, which ended up prompting a response from camp officials.
“Some of you noticed yesterday that the ground was shaking and that we were making a little more noise than usual,” officials posted Jan. 12. “We had some infantry companies training with 43-pound ground charges. Those are used to make an enemy’s runway unusable by puncturing holes in the ground/runway/road, etc. Couple that with a low ceiling, and folks as far away as Jacksonville, Cabot and Conway could have heard/felt the concussion of each blast.”
One user said the blasts shook the houseplants on her kitchen table shook while others noted items like photo frames falling off walls
“Very scary,” one user posted. “I’m an army vet and thought we were taking artillery fire. Scared me to death. My house shook all the way by Lowe’s in Jacksonville. I’m glad you guys are training and get it but can let those infantry guys know to be a little less hooah today thanks lol.”
Oldham acknowledged that they usually are good about getting that information out beforehand – he understands that extended, rapid fire in ear shot can be scary. He said every week they get a range report with trainings coming up, but happened to overlook this specific event seeing as it was scheduled by the infantry companies and not all who train on the ranges use what last weekend’s group does, plus, like the post said, low cloud cover also played a hand in the noise travel.
“That’s why it was so intense for the duration that it was,” he said.
Oldham remembers being out at the Little Rock Air Force Base and feeling the affects and hearing the training sounds wondering what in the world was going on.
He explained that military personnel aren’t the only ones that use the ranges but often get varying law enforcement groups and even the FBI from time to time out to use the training center, too.
“It’s not always us,” Oldham said. “It’s important because our soldiers and other entities have to stay current, have to stay qualified in whatever weapon systems they employ.”
That’s why camp officials try hard to let the public know what’s going on when, often using the official Camp Robinson Facebook page to convey information and encouraged users to follow that.
“The Arkansas National Guard understands that some aspects of ongoing military training creates disruptive noise and ground vibration concerns and as a concerned partner, the guard endeavors to keep our neighbors near the post informed when such external effects can be expected,” camp officials posted via Facebook. “Through our training, and the continued support of our communities, the Arkansas National Guard and our collocated sister service organizations can continue to make positive contributions to the safety and security of our state and nation.”
This weekend, more trainings are planned for the range but Oldham said they would be much quieter.
“Not what they got last weekend, I can assure you that,” he laughed.
He advised anyone with questions or concerns, to content them through the Facebook page or by calling their main line 501-212-5098 from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Staff writer Hilary Andrews can be reached at email@example.com.