Some residents are not pleased with helicopter flights over the Mid-Columbia that are part of training for the Army’s 75th Ranger Regiment.
The helicopters have flown over Aric Tyler’s home on Highway 225 north of Benton City between 10 p.m. and midnight since Monday, Tyler said in a complaint Thursday to Benton County Sheriff Steve Keane.
Tyler claims that the helicopters were close enough to throw a rock into an open door.
Only one small red light in the cabin of one helicopter was visible, but Tyler estimates one or two more were in the area, he said.
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“It is unlawful to operate any aircraft or helicopter without lighting and at altitudes that disturb the ground,” Tyler said. “My windows were shaking and my children and wife were woken up. The training taking place has violated my personal property rights and has violated federal FAA requirements for operating in the air.”
The Rangers from 2nd Battalion, who are stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, are conducting exercises at Hanford between Monday and Friday, according to an Army news release.
The MH-47 Chinook helicopters, also out of JBLM, belong to the 4th Battalion of the Army’s 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne), which transports Rangers and other special forces troops.
While Tyler filed a formal complaint, police departments in the area have heard from residents about the helicopters.
Richland police received a few calls, but that died down after TV reports about the training, said Capt. Mike Cobb.
“People were concerned about what the helicopters were doing, including myself,” he said.
West Richland police administrative assistant Tammy Davenport knew of two calls to the department about the helicopters.
The Rangers and SOAR personnel are testing their skills in a simulated urban environment similar to what they would face in combat, the Army said.
They train in darkness to make the exercises as realistic as possible.
The Rangers also use simulated munitions and small pyrotechnics, which may cause loud noises.
“The unit is extremely sensitive to the impact that such military exercises has on local citizens and we intend to train safely and courteously,” the Army said. “Every measure will be taken to reduce the amount of noise associated with this training.”
Keane has asked the Hanford Patrol to see if the training could be limited to the site, he said.
“I was originally told they were going to be confining exercises to Department of Energy property,” Keane told the Herald. “I didn’t know they would be flying over civilian areas.”
Tyler’s complaint is the only one Keane is aware of, he said.
Tyler also complained that the training was intended to condition the community to feel it is normal to have a military presence in the area.
“The more they operate the more people are conditioned to accept them as law enforcement, instead of our sheriff, who is elected,” Tyler told Keane. “This kind of conditioning is not just a random thing. It is happening all over in major cities using simulation rounds and pointing guns at civilians.”