The time is always right to do what is right
Stop targeting civilians with F 35 training flights in a city now
All members of the military are trained to understand and enforce law of war principles and to abide by them “in all military operations.” Including the Geneva Convention prohibition on targeting civilians: Military forces shall “at all times distinguish between the civilian population and combatants . . . and accordingly shall direct their operations only against military objectives.” Under a Vermont law the Vermont National Guard is required to conform its operations to this same discipline.
The Burlington International Airport (BTV) is located within the densely populated Chamberlin School neighborhood of the City of South Burlington. The runway aims at the City of Winooski one mile away in one direction and the Town of Williston in the other. The flight path crosses part of the East side of the City of Burlington before reaching Winooski.
Because BTV is so intermingled with populated areas, F-35 training operations carried out at BTV inherently target civilians. The Air Force itself provided the evidence: The 2013 US Air Force Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) said that an oval‑shaped area of over 2,200 acres will “generally not [be] considered suitable for residential use” (Volume II, page C-12) because of the 115 decibel F-35 noise. The Air Force said that 6,663 people live in 2,963 households within that 2,200-acre area (Volume I, page BR4-30), including half of Winooski and parts of Burlington, South Burlington, and Williston (BR4-69). See the 2019 article in Seven Days confirming the Air Force projection of high average noise levels affecting thousands of civilians and their property, “Is Your Home in a New Airport Noise Zone? Find Out Here.”
The Air Force did not mince words. The Air Force said 800 (12%) of the Vermonters who live in that oval-shaped area would be “highly annoyed” (C-10 & C-18). And that repeated exposure to noise at the level of the F-35 can cause noise-induced hearing loss (C-25). And that exposure to that noise can interfere with learning and impaired cognitive development (C-29 & C-30), including poorer reading comprehension, impaired speech perception, more difficulty solving problems, and lower scores on recall ability tests. An article in VTDigger and hundreds of F-35 Report and Complaint Forms confirmed distress and suffering.
The Air Force itself reported that the F-35 operations at BTV would have “disproportionate impact” on “low income and minority populations” (BR4-83). Tony neighborhoods are not affected: If the F-35 instead made the Hill Section of Burlington, where the mayor of Burlington lives, “unsuitable for residential use,” does anyone think 20 F-35 jets would be based at BTV? F-35 training flights at BTV is state-sponsored violence targeting thousands of working-class and racial minority families.
Martin Luther King said, “the time is always right to do what is right.” 250 years of slavery and 100 more years of Jim Crow could not justify continuing with state-sponsored segregation. Similarly, exposure of people to asbestos, lead paint, leaded gasoline, and lead pipes for many decades could not justify their continued use. Nor could decades of previous military jets at BTV justify continuing and intensifying the suffering and the damage to ears and brains of children with hundreds of F-35 training flights a month in a densely populated area.
Under the US Constitution the authority of training state national guards is reserved to the states. That means the illegal military training operations at BTV are carried out under orders from the Governor, with lock-step support from the three members of Vermont’s Congressional Delegation, the Burlington Mayor, House leaders, and Guard commanders. It also means the State of Vermont has authority to halt the F-35 training flights at BTV.
Up for town meeting vote on the ballot in Winooski on March 2 is just that question: “Shall the City of Winooski urge the State to halt the F-35 training flights in a densely populated area, such as Winooski.”
Whether you are a member of the military or a civilian, lift your voice to support a yes vote on Winooski ballot question 6 and urge Vermont’s top political and military leaders to stop the targeting of civilians inherent in locating F-35 training operations in a populated area.