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Camp Atterbury training means loud summer for area residents

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The weekend sounded like a war zone in southern Johnson County.

All weekend the sounds of mortar shells exploding were rattling homes and businesses in and around Edinburgh. Hearing booms and feeling vibrations from exploding shells have been pretty common for residents in recent years, but not something that’s easy to get used to, Edinburgh resident David Grothkob said.

“It’s like living in a war zone all summer long. The war is 5 miles away and you’re hearing everything that’s going on,” he said.

The noise is typical at Camp Atterbury every summer as National Guard members kick off their annual training.

About 5,000 troops from National Guard units in Indiana and nearby states arrived at the base near Edinburgh on Friday, and one of their first activities has been getting hands-on with some 120 mm mortar shells, Capt. Jessica Cates said.

The mortar explosions are loud and can shake the ground when they hit. But the low-hanging clouds that are in the area also act like a ceiling and make the explosions louder than if the weather were clear and sunny, she said.

Camp Atterbury isn’t exactly a quiet neighbor, Grothkob said. He’s used to the sounds of exploding mortars, in addition to planes and helicopters frequently flying overhead on their way to and from the base, he said.

“It reverberates and it shakes the whole town. That’s pretty common when they’re shooting their big stuff,” he said.

For about two weeks every year, National Guard soldiers are required to do readiness training, which includes doing some mortar training, infantry drills and logistics work, Cates said. Camp Atterbury will be hosting soldiers throughout the summer, although this first weekend likely will be the largest annual training group this year, she said.

Through June 13, nearby residents should expect to hear and feel the vibrations from more mortar fire, notice additional helicopters in the air and see more soldiers around the base on a daily basis, Cates said.

Deployment training, which brought thousands of soldiers to Camp Atterbury since the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001, ended last year, creating a brief lull in use of the base. But annual training for National Guard members will continue each year, as well as events such as the Vibrant Response emergency preparedness drills later this summer, Cates said.

“There’s always something going on between here and Muscatatuck through September. Mostly just (annual trainings) and a few exercises,” she said.

Residents in town have said they can feel the ground rumble from the mortars exploding, Edinburgh Police Chief David Mann said. Police haven’t received any calls about the noise, but even if they did, officers wouldn’t be able to stop it because they couldn’t write tickets for noise or gun violations to the military installation, he said.

Mann and other town officials are touring Camp Atterbury today and likely will discuss the issue with military leaders, he said.

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