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Pooler Magazine

The Sound of Freedom

The Sound of Freedom

Story by Cindy Read

It can be loud. Very loud. Booming loud. in fact. So loud that you wonder what on earth is happening. For some it’s a daily nuisance, for others it’s barely noticeable anymore. For all of us, it is what comes with living in close proximity to several military installations. It’s often called—with gratitude—the sound of freedom.

We Know We Are Loud

The US Army base at Fort Stewart, Hinesville, Ga, and Hunter Army Airfield, Savannah, Ga, generates a tremendous amount of noise, mostly from training exercises. They say, “We know we are loud,” and often post noise advisories on their website and social media pages. Not surprisingly, local residents often chime in on the subject. Some recent comments:

Keep that freedom ringing. It shakes my house a little and I love it.

When the pots rattle on the rack in my kitchen, I know it is the sound of my country's readiness.

I live in the flight path of the helicopters. Have heard them my whole life to where I don’t even pay them any attention anymore! It’s just the sound of freedom!

Makes me sleep better at night.

I am so glad to hear the sound. To me it sounds like protection.

There are always a few who are just glad to know what the heck is happening, and also a few comments from others who have difficulty living with it.

Just going to drop this in over at Nextdoor. Folks in some neighborhoods have never heard the booms before and were confused.

Thanks for this information. I really did not know what was going on.

I know we need to be battle ready—but I hate this feeling of being shell shocked again.

So this is what I’ve been hearing. No worries! Keep training!

I did think it was thunder at first...Feeling quite safe and thankful knowing it's you guys.

Hunter Army Airfield and  Fort Stewart

The history of Hunter Army Airfield is essentially the history of aviation and, more broadly, the history of America. From its start as a small municipal airport, Savannah’s aviation jewel has played a crucial role in our country’s defense. Knowing this history may make an understanding of the noise and sounds emanating from there, more interesting and less invasive. There is a good reason for every boom you hear!

1929 -  Savannah Municipal Airport, located on 730 acres on the outskirts of the city, opens.

1940 -  The airport is renamed Hunter Municipal Airfield, in honor of Lieutenant Colonel Frank O'Driscoll Hunter, a native of Savannah and a World War I flying ace. (He retires as a Major General in 1946)

1941 -  The United States Army Air Corps builds the Savannah Army Air Base at Hunter Municipal Airfield. After the attack at Pearl Harbor, Savannah AAB becomes a base for several Antisubmarine groups and squadrons of I Bomber Command and later Army Air Forces Antisubmarine Command with a mission to patrol the Atlantic coast, locate and attack German U-boats. After the war the airfield is returned to the City of Savannah.

1950 -  The City of Savannah swaps the airfield with the United States Air Force Strategic Air Command, along with 3,500 acres of additional land, for Chatham Air Force Base. The 2nd Bomb Group moves to the base, now reopened as Hunter Air Force Base.

1967 -  The Air Force closes the base, and the Army assumes control. The U.S. Army Flight Training Center is developed in conjunction with the flight training conducted at Fort Stewart. The helicopter pilot training is rapidly accelerated, and pilots are trained and sent to duty all over the world, with a substantial percentage seeing active duty in Vietnam.

1973 -  HAAF is deactivated, but reopens in 1975, serving as a support facility for the 24th Infantry Division (Mechanized), at Fort Stewart.

1974 -  1st Battalion, 75th Infantry Regiment (Ranger), parachutes into Fort Stewart where the battalion is stationed until moving to HAAF in 1978.

Today HAAF is a military airfield and subordinate installation to Fort Stewart, which is the largest Army installation east of the Mississippi River, covering 280,000 acres. HAAF has the Army’s longest runway east of the Mississippi River and an aircraft parking area that is more than 350 acres. This space allows the 3rd Infantry Division from Fort Stewart to efficiently deploy soldiers and cargo worldwide. It is an essential part of our nation’s defense.

“While it is frustrating and at times down right hard to sleep, I am grateful for our soldiers and am willing to endure the noise so they can be properly trained and safe.”

Why is it SO LOUD?

Yes, it can get pretty loud. Noise from Fort Stewart and HAAF can be heard many miles away. Here’s a few reasons why:

  • The artillery impact area supports fixed wing aircraft from other services dropping up to 1000 pound bombs and helicopter gunships firing rockets and guns
  • Ranges are active at least 324 days a year
  • A busy day can have 20 to 30 ranges active at one time
  • The training area has more than 70 active ranges
  •  Munitions fired vary from small 9 mm bullets to large, easily heard 155mm artillery rounds
  • 12 million rounds are fired there annually
  • Dense cloud cover and cold temperatures can make sound travel further
  • They train year-round, and at all hours of the night and day. Doing so ensures readiness when they deploy.

And there are many people coming and going. Fort Stewart and HAAF serve about 22,310 Soldiers, 42,957 family members, 4,500 civilians, 19,000 retirees, and National Guard soldiers. At the air base there are approximately 5,500 soldiers, airmen, coast guardsmen and Marines on station. Lots going on!

Other Area Noisemakers

There are several other airports and military installations nearby that also generate noise. One is the Savannah Air National Guard Base, 165th Airlift Wing is located at Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport.

The165th AW, which currently flies the C-130H cargo aircraft, provides air transport for airborne forces, their equipment, and supplies with delivery by airdrop or airland, and to provide strategic airlift of personnel, equipment, and supplies.

Coast GuardAir StationSavannah is also located on HAAF. Equipped with MH-65 Dolphin helicopters, Air Station Savannah provides Search & Rescue (SAR) coverage 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, for 450 miles of shoreline from the northern border of South Carlina to Melbourne, Florida, averaging more than 250 SAR cases a year.

Within a fifty mile radius you will find:

  • Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport in Savannah, GA—8 miles
  • MidCoast Regional Airport at Wright Army Airfield, GA—25 miles
  • Hilton Head Airport at Hilton Head Island, SC—30 miles
  • Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort in Beaufort, SC—40 miles          

The Marne Report

Produced by the Fort Stewart Public Affairs Office, the Marne Report is a podcast that explores what’s going on at Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield.

On a recent episode “Hear Comes the Boom” (March 4, 2022) host Kevin Larson talked with Lt. Col Scott Stephens,1-64 Armor Battalion commander, and Amanda Price, Directorate of Public Works, about training noise and why soldiers have to train like they fight, especially in conditions with low or no light.

Thank a Veteran

Training is an essential component at any military installation. Our Armed Forces need to recreate ‘real life’ scenarios, day and night, seven days a week, in order to be completely prepared for any contingency. Every loud boom is a crucial element of the mission to keep our Armed Forces service men and women—and our country—safe. And overwhelmingly our residents appreciate it.

We LOVE the sound of freedom! I don't care what time of the night. These folks HAVE MY BACK!

It’s a small noise compared to the sacrifice that the service members have made.

Let freedom ring!

For More Information:

Those who have concerns about the noise from HAAF / Fort Stewart can call the Fort Stewart Public Affairs Office at 912.435.9879. Their office is open Monday through Friday 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.