Noise from Kadena exercise rankles town
August 27, 2003
KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — Wailing sirens, “fireworks” and repeated broadcasts over base loudspeakers last week aroused Okinawans who live near the air base.
It was all part of a routine, unannounced exercise that began Wednesday night and lasted until Friday, according to the 18th Wing.
“Wing personnel participated in training from August 20 until Friday,” said public affairs spokesman Charles Steitz.
“This training is conducted routinely at operational bases Air Force-wide to evaluate a wing’s ability to respond to contingencies,” he said.
The exercise, he said, trained the wing in runway repair, fire suppression, force protection, offensive and defensive air operations, air refueling, combat search and rescue operations, air battle management and command and control.
“We normally don’t make notification to local officials regarding this kind of training,” Steitz said. “However, we make every effort to mitigate any impact on the local community.”
An important part of the exercise was training in night conditions, he said.
An official at Kadena Town’s military affairs office said the office received 26 calls from residents complaining of “sirens and announcements through loud speakers and firecrackers.”
“Some senior residents were frightened by the noise because the sirens reminded them of air raids during the World War II,” he said. “They thought that Kadena Air Base was being attacked by terrorists.”
He said Mayor Tokujitsu Miyagi filed a protest Friday with the 18th Support Group demanding the training stop. Residents living near the base last heard a siren at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
The Kadena town spokesman said Air Force officials informed the mayor the sirens were not supposed to be used after midnight during the three-day exercise “but there were some mistakes in procedures.”
The noise complaints came on the heels of an Okinawa Prefectural Government report that sensors placed around the air base showed the level of noise from jet aircraft basically was the same as last year. Ten locations showed decreases in the number of times noise levels exceeded 70 decibels; five locations showed increases.
— Chiyomi Sumida contributed to this report.