‘People don’t know what’s coming:’ Community members protest F-35s

MADISON, Wis. —  Around 75 protesters gathered Sunday at the Capitol to show their disapproval of the Air National Guard’s choice in selecting Madison as the new home of 18 F-35 fighter jets, set to arrive at Truax Field in 2023.

The jets have been cited as a threat to homes and ears by activists on Madison’s Northeast side, and the Air National Guard’s environmental impact statement has heightened these concerns for many.

Tom Berman has lived in Madison for 37 years, running a small business out of his house for 32. Now, according to the statement, his is one of over 1,000 homes considered “uninhabitable” due to noise levels.

“My environment is to be ruined, my hearing is to be permanently damaged, and I’m to be financially ruined,” he says. 

The Guard makes a clear distinction in its statement between “uninhabitable,” and “unliveable,” but for residents like Berman, the clarification isn’t comforting.

“Sounds at this horrific volume penetrate brick, they penetrate steel, they penetrate glass,” said Berman. “People don’t know what’s coming, and it’s going to be bad.”

While the guard says they’re working diligently on the logistics of the operation, residents say those in favor of the F-35s aren’t aware of the consequences they bring.

“Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the pilots and politicians that will be personally benefiting from the program were actually residing on the North side so they could experience the delight of 140 decibels many times per week?” said local artist and activist Steve Wolvin. 

Brian Benford, Madison’s 6th district alderperson has also expressed concern for his constituents.

“We need additional access to healthcare, housing, everything else these horrible weapons take away,” said Benford. “Any promise of economic gain should not come on the backs of those that are most marginalized and vulnerable in our community.”