BAXTER — Lakes area residents should expect to hear something they haven’t in perhaps a decade.
Drones. Helicopters. Tanks. Military thunder. Camp Ripley expects to have a busy summer.
“We’re going to be doing a lot,” said Col. Scott St. Sauver, Camp Ripley post commander, at a Baxter City Council meeting Tuesday. “We’re starting to go back into the garrison mode as we bring our soldiers back home, as we come out of the war cycle. We’re still deploying soldiers as we go, but not to the level we have been, obviously.
“So we are starting to see that training cycle come back. So what you are going to expect from your neighbor to the south, I suspect, is a little bit more noise. We’ve gotten use to —probably over the last 10 years — not as much of it.”
This year, the entire Iowa National Guard will be at Camp Ripley for training, along with numerous other out-of-state units. In addition to the helicopter traffic, Camp Ripley will be flying C-130 aircraft for night training, typically about midnight, as air crews train for Afghanistan.
In May, Camp Ripley expects to host 6,907 troops and 1,488 civilians, including a military police company and the 134th Brigade Support Battalion. The 1/34th Brigade Combat Team Headquarters and the familiar 1/194th Combined Arms Battalion are also scheduled in May.
In June, Camp Ripley expects to host 8,546 military personnel and 1,322 civilians for training events, including engineering companies, support and transportation, an air assault battalion and aviation units, including air traffic services, along with a medical detachment, among others. St. Sauver said the air units with Chinooks and Black Hawks back in Minnesota will mean more noise as the helicopters do most of their night flying training at Camp Ripley.
“They are using us more and more all the time,” St. Sauver said.
In July, Camp Ripley plans to host 7,645 troops and 703 civilians. The 33rd Brigade Combat Team will bring 3,400 troops alone.
August will be one of the busier months with 8,367 military personnel and 950 civilians, including engineer, combat arms, armor and field artillery battalions. The 48th Brigade Combat Team from Georgia will bring 3,500 troops.
“This will be a pretty loud August,” St. Sauver said.
As for the increased sound, St. Sauver said most of the sounds of distant thunder are actually sonic booms and not impact noise. New arrivals to the area often mistake the sound for an approaching storm.
St. Sauver said Camp Ripley’s mission is to train soldiers to succeed and survive. Some troops are getting ready to deploy. Others are returning. And others are getting back into a regular training schedule after previous deployments.
Millions of dollars have gone into recent upgrades to Camp Ripley from drone training, to realistic environments at the Combined Arms Collective Training Facility. In addition to the military mission, Camp Ripley has facilities used by law enforcement, firefighters and local units of government from the state’s $5 million high-speed vehicle operations course to a new emergency management training center, which will open soon.