Swickard: Not in my backyard

© 2017 Michael Swickard, Ph.D.  Jet engines make lots of noise, especially military jets. It seems several communities in New Mexico are bothered by the thought that jets from Holloman Air Force Base may fly over their towns and surrounding lands while they are training for the role of combat pilot.
            The Air Force leadership at Holloman has announced that the jet pilots they are training need more area to practice what they do before they get into actual combat. Naturally it goes without saying that when you are in combat is a bad time to learn some things that should be taught before they get into combat.
            The rub is that many people in these towns don’t want to hear military jets flying over their homes. The very thought of it annoys some people. They are writing angry letters and protesting having to hear the noise of jets. They say that the pilots should fly somewhere else. What they are saying is don’t fly over my backyard.
            When I was much younger I was working on a barbed wire fence one day about twenty miles south of Carrizozo on my grandfather’s ranch. It was a warm quiet day and I was almost falling asleep on my feet while I worked on this fence. Bees were buzzing and birds were singing. Then it happened.
            Four F-4 Phantom jets from Holloman AFB came over me doing about 400 knots at two hundred feet above the terrain. Instantly I went from being almost asleep on my feet to throwing the hammer and running over the fence in a panic. Then it was quiet again.
            It is much worse for those cowpokes on horseback. There can be quite a difficulty for a rider when a horse is spooked this way. That said, I am not troubled by the military jets. To me that is the sound of freedom and I normally look up appreciatively.
            The syndrome is called, “Not in my backyard.” Be it jets overhead or highways or power lines, people will object and demand that these things not be in their backyard, they should be in someone else’s backyard.
            How do we decide who has a backyard that should be protected from things that annoy and who does not? In 1965, I lived in Aurora Colorado under the landing and takeoff pattern of Stapleton Airport. It was often very loud but we got used to it. The airport moved after we left.
            What we are dealing with is volunteers to our nation’s military who put their lives on the line for our freedom. They must have a place to train. The rigors are such that some pilots will not survive the training. And we should worry that the noise bothers some people?
            Every effort should be taken to not annoy people up to the point that the pilots are not able to get the very best training preparing them for real combat. At that point, we should take their training as more important than our convenience.