Army, German town strike long-awaited deal on weapons range noise near Stuttgart
By JOHN VANDIVER AND MARCUS KLOECKNER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: April 26, 2018
STUTTGART, Germany — U.S. Special Operations Forces will scale back some of their high-intensity training here as part of a deal with local government officials to reduce the crackle of gunfire in an area where locals have grown frustrated with the noise.
U.S. Army officials met with federal officials and leaders from the suburban Stuttgart town of Boeblingen at the German defense ministry in Berlin on Wednesday, in an effort to resolve a dispute that has dragged on for a decade.
“We understand the concerns of the communities surrounding our training facilities; after all, many Army families live in those communities as well,” said Christian Marquardt, a spokesman for the 7th Army Training Command.
To mitigate training noise, the Army has agreed to move noisier training exercises conducted by special operations units at the Panzer Range Complex to the more isolated, rural garrison towns of Grafenwoehr or Baumholder, Marquardt said.
Some high-intensity drills will continue at the range, but the plan to reduce training was welcomed by local officials.
Boeblingen Lord Mayor Stefan Belz told Stars and Stripes that the meeting was very constructive.
“When I drove home from Berlin to Boeblingen, I had a good feeling, and I hope that the feeling will turn into enthusiasm in July,” said Belz, referring to the time when the Army will present a detailed plan for the changes.
The officials also agreed to install new noise barriers to better soundproof the range, though a timeline for construction hasn’t been finalized. Boeblingen has agreed to fund one-third of the project at a cost of about $340,000. The Army will pay for the remainder, city officials said.
Marquardt said the Army has approved funding to mitigate more noise at Panzer, with a timeline yet to be determined.
In recent years, the Army has installed sound barriers designed to reduce sound, as well as restricted shooting on nights and weekends. But residents have continued to complain, straining the town’s relationship with the Army.
The Stuttgart area is home to various elite military units that fall under the command of U.S. Special Operations Command Europe. While the range at Panzer is small and less intensively used than the facilities in Grafenwoehr, the sound of gunfire has been an irritant in some of the prosperous neighborhoods abutting the Boeblingen facility.