Today’s technology is amazing. I can sit in my living room here in Florida and read papers from all around the world. You have to like that. There is nothing more satisfying than acquiring more knowledge, regardless of where the knowledge is located.
I saw an interesting letter to the editor posted in an online newspaper from the Wiregrass area of Alabama. This is the place where my mother’s people settled sometime back in the very early 1800s. During the time since the century before last and in the last century, the Wiregrass area has changed quite a lot.
Where my great-great-great-grandparents rest in their graves off County Highway 18, asphalt runways of one of Ft. Rucker’s outlying training fields stand a few hundred feet away. The Army uses the area for training helicopter pilots. When the Army moved into the Wiregrass area in 1954, there was little in the area other than the farms like those that my great-grandparents operated to make their living from the earth.
Sometimes, it was not much of a living. Times were hard in the Wiregrass, especially in the decades following the war. That was the War Between the States. Not one of the wars we fought later, united as a nation, against other countries.
A reader of one of the newspapers wrote to complain about the noise created by the helicopters. I was very impressed by the comments posted by the locals of the Wiregrass.
The majority of the residents currently living in the area defended the Army and the necessity for the training. Many had lived in the area as my family, from the 1800s. It was apparent the letter writer was a recently arrived immigrant who did not do his research well enough before buying or renting his house. He was demanding the Army close the base, or stop flying helicopters at night and disturbing his sleep.
Overwhelmingly, the residents of the Wiregrass praised the presence of the base. They understood the importance of Ft. Rucker from the standpoint of jobs, the economy, culture, and as one writer put it, “fresh blood,” coming to the area. They realized that without the base, many well-paying jobs would be gone leaving the area more financially depressed than anyone could describe.
Many of the commentators understood the Army pilots were out flying at night not of the own volition, but as a necessity for the job they would eventually be tasked in actual combat. There was the question about the helicopters operating at higher altitudes, to help with the noise situation. The answer to the question is, in a word, no.
When I was a Navy pilot, we quite literally lived and died by the mantra, “Fight like you train, train like you fight.” Another way of stating this is if you are not comfortable with nap-of-the-earth (NOE) flight operations, you going to get killed trying to do it for real in combat. Moreover, if you are operating in “bad guy territory” and lacked the skills of flying NOE, the enemy will kill you.
In essence, what is happening in the area around Ft. Rucker is the same thing happening to many civilian airports around the nation. A relative few complain about the noise. Now, to these individuals, it does not matter the airport was in place 10, 20, maybe as much as 50 years before they purchased their house nearby. They just want the airport closed and to hell with the consequences.
The funny thing is, they did not do their research. First, they should have known there was an airport nearby—maybe they would not have purchased that particular house. Secondly, if they knew they were successful in closing down the airport, they would be putting many people out of work and eliminating a lot of money from their local economy.
However, here is where it will affect them the most: later, when they go to the airport to board their flight for their business trip, their vacation, their mom or dad’s funeral, they may very well find the flight canceled.
The cancelation will not be due to weather, or mechanical issues, it will be the result of a lack of pilots. There is a shortage of pilots coming that will literally shock many in this nation.
Particularly those who were successful in closing down the very airports where those new, young, pilots would have trained and started on their way to their airline careers.
© 2011 J. Clark