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Residents Take Navy Bombs In Stride

The military will conduct training at the Pinecastle Bombing Range. It's loud, but few people complain.

By Jim Buynak | Sentinel Staff Writer

March 26, 2005
Copyright © 2005 ORLANDO SENTINEL. All rights reserved.

OCALA NATIONAL FOREST -- March may come in like a lion but it won't go out like a lamb for people living near the Pinecastle Bombing Range.

The Navy will conduct weeklong bombing runs next week on the range as F/A-18 fighter jets from the USS Theodore Roosevelt go through routine training, Corey Schultz, spokeswoman for the Naval Air Station in Jacksonville, said Friday.

The Roosevelt's home port is Norfolk, Va., but the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier is off the coast of Florida for a training exercise, she said. Seventy to 80 planes will be used in the exercise.

Residents in the area of the 5,800-acre range in the Ocala National Forest should expect to hear the bombs and feel vibrations from their impact.

"I occasionally hear them or feel it," said Jack Green, who lives on Demko Road, about 10 miles from the range. "I don't have any problem with it. I have a problem with people who have a problem with it."

Another area resident, Pen Smith, echoed those sentiments.

"I knew it [the bombing range] was here when I moved here," Smith said. "They were here first, just like the black bears. They have first dibs."

Smith, who lives on Dorr Road, also about 10 miles from Pinecastle, said the training is needed.

"Anybody that doesn't like it needs to move to Maitland or Casselberry or Poinciana," he said. "They [the pilots] need a place to train."

Smith, who said his father was a Navy pilot on a torpedo-bomber in World War II, said he is used to the noises and rattling.

"They've been doing it all week," he said.

Schultz said pilots out of the Marine Corps Air Station in Beaufort, S.C., dropped live ordnance on Pinecastle on Wednesday and Thursday.

Jeanette Barr, who lives off State Road 19 near the range, said she can hear the bombing, and it rattles her windows. But as long as she knows when it's happening, she has no complaints.

"Boom! Boom!" she said with a chuckle. "Yeah, I can hear it and feel it. It can scare you if you're not expecting it, but if I know what's going on, I can cope with it."

Pinecastle, a bombing site since World War II, has been used more since the military pulled out of the Vieques bombing range in Puerto Rico in May 2003 following three years of steady protests after an errant bomb killed an islander.

Although there have been no casualties reported at Pinecastle, four anglers in nearby Lake George accidentally hooked a 2-foot-long bomb with their boat anchor in October 2000.

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