JBLM should listen to complaints

Officials at Joint Base Lewis-McChord admit they botched it when they made major changes in helicopter air routes last month without informing their neighbors.

Now it’s up to those same leaders at the military base to rectify the problems they’re causing.

The base has been bombarded with calls from residents surrounding JBLM, complaining of noisy low-flying helicopters at all times of the day and night, rattling windows, household items on shelves and the nerves of residents.

Military brass erred in not informing the public about the changes in air routes, which have extended helicopter air space outside the boundaries of the military reservation. This occurred despite the fact that base officials vowed in the past to keep the public informed of any changes in base operations that impact the nearby communities and neighborhoods.

The flap over helicopter noise is the latest example of the growing pains JBLM has experienced as the base population has continued to grow in support of two overseas conflicts over the past decade.

In this case, the fleet of helicopters assigned to active-duty, National Guard and Reserve units has grown by 50 percent – from 100 to 150 – including the May arrival of Apache combat helicopters at JBLM for the first time.

The additional helicopter traffic has forced helicopters to fly over areas in Thurston County – notably the Lacey lakes area, Yelm and Rainier – to get to the 12 sites on base designated for helicopter training.

The major changes in air traffic have cause sleepless nights and frayed nerves for neighbors, many of whom have complained directly to officials at JBLM.

“I’m so sleep-deprived, it’s crazy,” said Long Lake resident Vanessa Olson.

The traffic is supposed to calm down in the weeks ahead as some of the summer training sessions taper off. But in the meantime, it’s incumbent upon those in command at JBLM to take the complaints seriously and revise the routes and flying altitudes with their neighbors in mind.