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The 8th annual Great Georgia Turkey Shoot

POSTED: November 25, 2008 5:00 a.m.
Photo by Patty Leon/

Area residents stand on a control tower as three Chinook helicopters bring in dignitaries from central and north Georgia.

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Those sonic roars over Liberty County Thursday were from the eighth annual Great Georgia Turkey Shoot.
No, the Pentagon hadn’t called out the nation’s Top Guns to start preparing Thanksgiving dinner. The fighter and bomber pilots were testing their skills at the Townsend Bombing Range.
So the noise was nearly deafening for the several hundred people invited to the little-known military installation just south of Liberty County as the jets flew over.
The daylong event put the bombing and strafing accuracy of the military’s top fighter pilots to the test.
Air National Guard flight controllers directed fighters pilots in F-16s, A-10s and other military jets to the Townsend Range target area where they dropped inert bombs for accuracy at simulated military targets. Following several runs at the target, pilots dropped to treetop level to strafe large “bullseye” targets set up on the range. At the end of the competition, the turkey shoot winner is the unit accumulating the most points.
Lt. Col. Ken Baldowski, public affairs officers for the Georgia Guard, said it would be a week or so before the results are compiled.
The pilots also practiced maneuvers to avoid being struck by surface to air missiles.
Georgia’s adjunct general, MG William Nesbitt, and U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey, Ga. 11th, were among the dignitaries who spoke at a brief ceremony before the aerial combat demonstration started. Some VIPs and guests were flown in on Chinook helicopters, landing just a few yards from the newly erected, 80-foot control tower at the range.
The range is straddles the McIntosh-Long County and is operated to Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort. The 5,182-acre range west of Townsend is used routinely by all services to fine-tune the bombing and air combat skills of fighter pilots. State officials say the range is important to Georgia’s economy because it is used by Moody Air Force Base in Valdosta and Robins Air Force Base in Warner Robins, as well as by the Beaufort MCAS in South Carolina. The Townsend Range, part of the Georgia Air Guard’s Combat Readiness Training Center in Savannah directs more that 3,000 training flights each year.
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