STUTTGART, Germany -- Readiness is critical for Soldiers stationed here in Stuttgart and ranges at Panzer Kaserne are a key element of maintaining that readiness.
Part of that readiness includes regular training with small arms and other handheld weaponry, which has at times resulted in bothersome noise impacts to residents in the nearby City of Böblingen for years. The U.S. Army is partnering with the neighboring community to reduce those disturbances with innovative range improvements currently underway.
“Noise issues - firing noise, flight noise – are probably the biggest sources of friction between the U.S. forces and the local communities wherever we’re stationed,” said U.S. Forces Liaison Officer Sean Schulze at Stuttgart. “So if we can come together with the local authorities to work together on a solution to remove this point of friction then one, we have the advantage of removing the point of friction and two, we have the advantage of practicing working together through a difficult issue.”
The portions of the range complex at Panzer Kaserne in question are used for small arms live fire training, including shoot and move training. The Soldiers training are surrounded mostly by concrete walls and shoot through open sections toward target areas downrange.
As it is, while there are elements in place to mitigate some of the noise, the sound waves from the sound of the firing deflect off the walls in all directions and continue to deflect until they leave the range in various directions.
The project team is installing specially-designed wood wall segments in front of the existing concrete structural walls. The wooden walls being installed have angled wood baffling features designed to absorb some of the noise from the firing and direct the rest of noise upward and away from where it would be bothersome to those nearby.
“As it exists now, as a Soldier is shooting toward the bullet trap the sound energy goes everywhere kind of indiscriminately, including at times deflecting toward the neighboring community,” said U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Europe District Project Manager Andrew Duffe. “With that wood baffle system on all the walls within the range you have angled pieces of wood that are meant to deflect that sound energy up directly into the atmosphere to dampen the noise.”
The work is a being carried out through a close partnership between the City of Böblingen, the local German construction authority known as the Bauamt, the 7th Army Training Command, U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The bulk of the funding for the improvements is through the U.S. European Command.
The German Bundeswehr Immissions Measurement Office also provided critical support, refining the design and conducting practical proof-of-concept experiments.
The City of Böblingen has been an active and collaborative partner in the project, and is contributing funding for improvements to the doors as part of the overall range improvements and noise mitigation.
While the range has been in use since prior to World War II, the concerns about noise from the range seem to have grown in the 1990s and into the 2000s as training has increased and the area nearby became more developed. In 2007 a collaborative working group was started with members representing U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart and local officials.
With Stuttgart being home to the headquarters of Mercedes-Benz, the City of Böblingen was home to private individuals with sound engineering expertise from working on high-end vehicles and brought their input and expertise to the collaborative planning process done in partnership with the local community.
“There was unique personal expertise from working on the super high-end Mercedes models, and mitigation of sound in their cars allow for quieter ride,” said U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Regional Program Manager for Stuttgart Jeff Thomas. “This was one of a kind community feedback and contribution, probably in the world because of the Mercedes-Benz headquarters being in Stuttgart.”
This partnership and local expertise also contributed to the selection of the type of wood for the walls and baffling, as different types of wood reflect sound differently.
“The wood baffling absorbs the sound and reflects it up, whereas concrete just reflects sounds and sometimes can amplify it in the process - think like a racquetball or squash court,” Thomas said.
While the use of the angled wood baffling is not common, Schulze noted that it has proven successful elsewhere in the country at another training range used by police near the community of Bamberg.
The range noise mitigation improvements are underway and expected to be completed in early 2022 and the hope is the neighboring community will see significant reductions in noise disturbances from the range activities.
“It’s not that the neighboring community will never hear any noise, but it will be significantly less when we’re done,” Duffe said. “This is a good faith, neighborly effort by the U.S. government to reduce the amount of noise pollution for the citizens of Böblingen because we understand it’s important to be good neighbors to our host nation and the locals around this range.”