Buddhist Monastery's Noise Complaints Lead US Air Force to Suspend Training at Scottish Range

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Monks at the Samye Ling Buddhist Monastery and Tibetan Centre
Monks at the Samye Ling Buddhist Monastery and Tibetan Centre, use instruments during prayers in the temple June 5, 2007 in Eskdalemuir in Scotland. (Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

The U.S. Air Force has suspended its training activities at a range in southwest Scotland after a local community lodged complaints that the noise disturbed a nearby Buddhist monastery.

With help from the U.K. Ministry of Defence, the service is reviewing its training protocols to determine how best to conduct "multiple events" it had been holding near the Kagyu Samye Ling Monastery and Tibetan Centre for the past seven months, said Capt. Kevyn Lee-Anne Kaler, spokeswoman for the 352nd Special Operations Wing at RAF Mildenhall.

"We were unaware of concerns from the local community, and we regret the disturbance that this has caused," Kaler told Military.com in an email Friday. The news was first reported by Stars and Stripes earlier this week.

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Kaler added that the 352nd, which has more than 1,100 assigned personnel, will continue other training "to maintain readiness and vital capabilities within the theater."

According to a petition posted on Change.org, local residents said the location of two long-range rifle ranges within the valley of Eskdalemuir near the monastery is "inappropriate."

"Eskdalemuir, a remote Scottish valley is home to the largest Tibetan Buddhist temple in Europe," the petition states. The webpage was launched two weeks ago.

"Established in 1968 as a centre for world peace, Samye-Ling hosts tens of thousands of visitors each year from across the world, who come to take part in courses and retreats and to enjoy the peace and tranquillity not just of Samye-Ling, but of the whole valley," it states.

As of Friday, more than 20,400 people had signed the petition.

It was not clear how the Air Force was made aware of its disturbance to the local community, but the landowner, George Birrell, had been in negotiations with the service to expand the range with two permanent target areas and a cabin, according to The Scotsman newspaper.

Birrell told the newspaper he wanted to draw more law enforcement groups "that would want training on such things as security and counter terrorism [activities]."

"We are 100% not talking about an infantry battalion turning up. We are looking at small groups of between six and ten people," Birrell said.

News of the expansion riled residents of the monastery -- which hosts about 50 monks, nuns and other non-ordained members -- who said the increased noise would threaten a space intended for peace and harmony.

Lama Yeshe Rinpoche, the monastery's abbot, told The Scotsman he had raised objections to the plan.

"Thousands of people come to Samye Ling for courses and to meditate," he said. "They all feel strongly opposed to this plan. I have many friends from around the world who are determined to raise their voices in opposition to it."

-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.

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