Army serves notice on Jefferson County: The choppers are coming

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

PORT TOWNSEND — The Army has scheduled a helicopter training exercise for tonight and Thursday night, and it will be viewable throughout the Quimper Peninsula.

Between 9 p.m. and 11 p.m. on both nights, two CH-47 Chinook helicopters will land in sequence at Jefferson County International Airport just south of Port Townsend, according to Port of Port Townsend Executive Director Larry Crockett.

Crockett received word from Joint Base Lewis-McChord about the exercises Monday, he said.

He notified Jefferson County Administrator Philip Morley, City Manager David Timmons and Jefferson County Sheriff Tony Hernandez.

There was no direct notice to the media about the exercises. Calls to the base Tuesday were not returned.

After landing, one of the helicopters will refuel the other in a simulation of circumstances in which a single helicopter cannot carry enough fuel to complete its mission, Crockett said.

The helicopters, which originate from Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Tacoma, will complete the exercise in less than 90 minutes each night, Crockett said.

These training exercises happen every year or so, Crockett said, and he has always been alerted to the occurrence by the Army.

Port Angeles incident

That was not the case in Port Angeles earlier this month.

The Army gave no prior notice to civilians before Army helicopters from Lewis-McChord — four Chinooks supported by several Black Hawk attack choppers — flew late-night training exercises over Port Angeles on July 11.

The training exercises by pilots of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment ran from about 10:30 p.m to shortly before midnight.

The Coast Guard station in Port Angeles, which was used for takeoffs and landings, was notified, but the exercises surprised local law enforcement and the public.

Port Angeles Mayor Cherie Kidd, saying the visitation had “terrorized my city,” spoke with the garrison commander of Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Col. H. Charles Hodges Jr., at the base, and Hodges attended a Port Angeles City Council meeting to apologize and assure the public that prior notification would be provided in the future.



Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or cbermant@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: July 23. 2013 10:33PM
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