BUTLERVILLE, IN – Little by little, the droning of a helicopter grows louder in the darkness over Muscatatuck Urban Training Center, Ind. Looking up, there are no visual signs of any helicopter traffic.
Suddenly, a single helicopter flies directly overhead, surprisingly quick, as it swoops down to an open field to allow a small group of men to disembark.
The entire event takes mere seconds and if you look away, you miss it. This is the training that takes place at night for the Army’s 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, or SOAR, out of Ft. Campbell, Kentucky.
“The unit is conducting routine nighttime aviation and customer support training,” says Sgt. 1st Class Jason Cauley, public affairs representative for the 160th SOAR. “This is critical training to maintain the highest level of combat readiness.”
MUTC offers something that the 160th SOAR just can’t get at their home station… unfamiliar terrain to the pilots. While they may have maps of the area and know where they are going, buildings, power lines, and the natural environment cannot be duplicated anywhere else.
“This is important because our pilots have to fly in all areas when deployed in combat,” Cauley states.
The training also helps the troops on the ground. Helicopters don’t just fly around and land for fun, they are carrying a cargo of men whose job it is to utilize those same helicopters in the most efficient way. Those are the customers Cauley is referring to.
But why does the training have to happen at night? Because during training, realism can mean the difference between life and death.
“Our aviators and crews must train in the most realistic conditions possible to maintain readiness for potential real world missions,” Cauley continues. “This includes training during the cover of night. The aviators of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment are known for their expertise at flying night missions.”
Unfortunately, noise can be an issue during night training, especially at a facility as small as MUTC. According to Lt. Col. Chris Kelsey, MUTC site commander, steps have been taken to minimize the effect of the noise on the neighbors.
“We minimize the noise as much as we possibly can,” Kelsey says. “I realize that, being a small base, there is only so much that we can do, but we have put minimum height restrictions for flight over areas surrounding Muscatatuck and do everything we can to notify our neighbors, including calling them, when we will have night flying taking place.”
Cauley echoes Kelsey’s sentiments, “We are extremely sensitive to the impact such training has on local citizens and we intend to train safely and courteously. Every measure to reduce the amount of noise associated with the training will be taken.”
At Muscatatuck Urban Training Center, training is as realistic as is possible while still taking safety considerations into account. We train harder than we will have to fight and thanks to working with the community, Muscatatuck has become a place people love to train.