Friday, May 11, 2012

More conditioning

One wonders why, with scores of military installations across the U.S. -- including at least one National Training Center with 1,000 square miles of dedicated space -- is it necessary to conduct urban assault training in actual American cities?
“It was quite a shocking experience,” said Jane Muir, who was awakened around 1:45 a.m. by the sound of military choppers that later dropped rappelling soldiers onto the Grand Bay’s rooftop. “It was kind of that bizarre feeling that you were surrounded by wind.”
From her third-floor balcony, Muir then watched the soldiers fire off flares and smoke bombs before searching floor by floor through the darkened hotel, their paths marked by flashlights and the pop-pop-pop of gunshots. “The show of force was so overwhelming,” she said.
The maneuvers were part of a “realistic urban training” exercise for about 100 military personnel, and organized by the U.S. Special Operations Command, said Maj. Michael Burns, a U.S. Army spokesman. The exercise also included three military helicopters, and the use of simulated explosions and gunfire to mimic real-life military scenarios.
“They have to train in a realistic environment,” Burns said. “We didn’t use any real bullets,” he added reassuringly.
Not that the civilian neighbors could tell the difference... blanks make the same sounds...
A handful of alarmed Grove residents called the police and City Hall to ask about the armed choppers flying over their homes.
Muir, for one, would not have minded a heads up beforehand.
“I thought it was kind of rude, to tell you the truth,” she said. “One neighbor was swearing, he was so annoyed.”
But despite the neighborhood anxiety, the exercise went off safely and quickly, Burns said.
“It seems very high drama, but to us it’s kind of simple,” he said.

Yes, yes, everyone's dutifully proud at the Terminator-like efficiency of today's special forces and their civilian SWAT acolytes.  That doesn't answer the question: why train around civilians with little to no notice?   Besides, no matter how 'simple' it may be to the soldiers, accidents do happen.  What if one of the three helicopters malfunctioned in the tight urban landscape?  What if somebody got sloppy and loaded a magazine of live rounds?  (It happens...)  Worse, what if a frightened citizen, disoriented at the midnight madness, thought they were being attacked and tried to defend themselves?

The risk factors alone make this sort of thing (which has become a trend) very unwise.  Unless, as I've said before, Americans are being conditioned to see troops in the streets...

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