Military training in mountains film released

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Public comment period open

Magdalena
Military training exercises have become a hot topic with a group of residents in the Magdalena area. As a result of their concerns, a video produced by Michael Mideke and Ruth Hamilton was given two public showings last Friday in the village.
Through interviews with local residents, the 24-minute film attempts to document nuisance and damage caused by military training exercises in the Riley and Baca Canyon areas.

John Larson/El Defensor Chieftain: Evidence of military training on Johnny Krynitz’s ranch includes live ammunition, magazines for automatic weapons and flare casings.

At issue is a proposed Forest Service permit that would allow the 58th Special Operations Wing out of Kirtland Air Force Base the use of Cibola National Forest land in the Bear Mountains for the next 20 years.

Training exercises include Para-rescue men and Combat Rescue Officer School which is land-based aircraft assisting and over 100,000 rounds fired annually, including pyrotechnics. The 58th Special Operations Wing operates helicopters, Ospreys and transport aircraft that practice low-level tactical navigation, approach, departures and hovers.

In the video, Hamilton interviews three property owners who voice their concerns over the noise of the exercises, as well as the vibrations caused by low flying helicopters and transport planes.

Johnny Krynitz of Kripple Kreek Ranch in Baca Canyon opens his cattle and horse ranch to groups of foster children on weekends. In the video he said on one occasion an all night training maneuver terrified the children and frightened the livestock. He said when training maneuvers occur, at least one cow abandoned her newborn calf.

The video shows Kynitz picking up live ammunition, magazines, smoke grenades and other items of combat from his property.

Victor Chavez, who lives north of Magdalena near the Alamo Navajo reservation said vibrations from low-flying aircraft have caused cracks in the walls of his adobe house. In the video Chavez said, “If we had wanted noise, we would have moved to town. The military does not care about us.”

Artist Warren Smart, who lives in Pinon Springs said an Osprey aircraft “came directly towards my house, zooming up at the last minute.”

“I almost had a heart attack,” he said. “It took me several minutes to get my breathing and blood pressure back down. Another time the vibrations shook three paintings off the wall and were destroyed.”

Smart has lived in Pinon Springs for eleven years and said he has experienced the low flying aircraft for the entire time.

A public meeting was held on Nov. 22 at the Cibola Forest Ranger District station in Magdalena. At that meeting representatives from the U.S. Air Force and Cibola addressed concerns raised by the landowners affected.

The Defensor Chieftain reported at that meeting Col. Stephen Andreasen from Kirtland Air Force Base said that for the purpose of an environmental assessment, which is required before a permit is issued, all potential activity was pushed to the maximum. For example, 4,000 sorties is the maximum his group does across all operations.

“We overstated for the purpose of the EA,” he said. “The guys spend less than 50 days (each) in the field per year. There will be 100 to 150 landings in a year.”

Kim Fornof from the Air Education and Training Command, said at the meeting  a permit will not be issued until the environmental assessment process is complete. Current operations are taking place under a temporary permit, which ends in June 2014.

The current public comment period began on Jan. 6 and ends on Feb. 5, said Ruth Sutton, public affairs officer for the Cibola National Forest.

You may write your comments to Military Training Project, Elaine Kohrman, USFS, Supervisor Cibola, 2113 Osuna Rd. NE, Albuquerque, NM 87113-1001, or email comments-southwestern-cibola@fs.fed.us. Include name and address, and the title: Military Training Exercises Project. Include specific comments on the project and the Environmental Analysis, along with supporting reasons that the responsible official should consider in reaching a decision.

The video was filmed over a period of three days in November, 2013. It can be viewed on YouTube a http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rguV-qDnhho.