Army National Guard training sets up shop in Greenville
Capt. Chris Jones speaks to the Greenville County Council. (Aug. 19, 2014/FOX Carolina)
The Aviation Support Facility No. 2 is located near the Donaldson Center. (Aug. 19, 2014/FOX Carolina)
GREENVILLE, SC (FOX Carolina) -
Some neighbors near the Donaldson Center in Greenville are not happy about hearing more helicopters flying around in the last month. It's because a permanent Army National Guard battalion has set up shop.
The Aviation Support Facility No. 2 will offer training and support for three different Army National Guard units. They'll fly across the region, keeping their pilots up to speed.
Some neighbors say they're already disturbed by the noise, and they're nervous for potentially dangerous flight exercises flying over their homes.
Capt. Chris Jones, operations officer at the facility, spoke to the Greenville County Council and concerned citizens about what his crews will actually be doing.
Council members said this year is the first time Greenville County has had a real military presence since Donaldson Air Force Base shut down in the 1960s. They said they're happy to host the aviators, and the training exercises won't be as scary as some neighbors may think.
Ed Paxton said he lives near Donaldson Center, and in the last month, he's heard more choppers than ever. He and others, like Lib Tickle, who said she's worked in engineering for 29 years, don't think the National Guard's training should be so close to so many homes.
"Safety first is always our No. 1 priority. How safe is 25,000 pounds of concrete dangling from a cable underneath a helicopter?" said Tickle.
Jones said that training protocol includes flying their Chinooks and Lakotas, carrying cement blocks that could weigh up to 25,000 pounds, to simulate a Humvee pickup.
He explained that helicopters will not be flying above homes carrying massive cement blocks, but that his team will work with forestry services to find isolated areas to train. He said the cement blocks will stay in those areas.
Unlike the high number of flights some people may have heard about, Jones said training flights will only take off 15 times a week, mostly on weekdays.
"Every flight is evaluated to determine what is the risk level, how do we mitigate the risk and conduct safe training," said Jones.
Jones' department of 57 was in Columbia before, but this summer, they moved to Greenville. Along with nearby forests, like Sumter and Dupont, Jones said students at Greenville Tech have the perfect technical skills and potential to join his team.
Councilman Butch Kirven says the aviators add to Greenville County's economy and offer local opportunity for young people.
"To me, [helicopters flying] looks like freedom and protection flying overhead. I'm glad to see it myself," said Kirven.
Council members asked the county manager if they would even have any say in what happens at Donaldson. The answer was no.
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