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By Erin Smith

 

White Lake was filled with the sounds of loud bangs and the whirring of helicopters circling overhead as the United States Marine Corps trained at the Bladen County Training Center. The 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit was conducting the Realistic Urban Training exercise in order to prepare Marines for deployment. About 63 Marines from Camp Lejuene took part in Friday’s exercise.

 

Friday’s training session was observed by Col. Sullivan. Others observing the training included the Paul R. Brown Leadership Academy

 

When asked what this means for the Bladen County Training Facility, Bladen County Sheriff’s Office Training Officer Gary Turlington said, “What this means to us, is it gives us the opportunity to reach into federal assets for use and the continued improvement of this facility. It enhances the type kind and quality of training I can deliver to members of law enforcement and first responders.”

 

In a briefing prior to the training session, Mr. Jones explained what would take place and what is made pole by the local officials and the Marine Corps working together. Mr. Jones explained the process of locating a facility for training. He said the NCIS goes out locates facilities like the Bladen County Training Facility. Once the facility is cleared for use, then the training session is set up.

 

“We are here to prepare these men to deploy,” said Mr. Jones.

 

He said Friday’s training exercise is part of three exercises which will take place in other locations outside of Bladen County over the coming weeks. Mr. Jones said next week the Marines will be training in physical search and seizure and how to assault ships offshore.

 

Mr. Jones said the Marine Corps has been training off base since 1985. He explained it gets the Marines accustomed to dealing with things like dogs, decorative fences dividing roadways, fences dividing farm fields, reactions of civilians to encountering military personnel in their neighborhoods, and for the pilots it challenges their skills by having to fly near power lines. Aircraft used in Friday’s training session included Hueys, an Osprey, and a heavy lift helicopter.

 

Mr. Jones said the Marine Corps has trained in 15 states and 43 cities. He said the Marines used to train in larger cities like Philadelphia but now they are utilizing smaller towns.

 

Friday’s training session was the final day in a three day training session. Mr. Jones said Marines have began occupying the Bladen County Training Facility since Wednesday. The Marines who were playing the roles of citizens began setting up patterns of life that might occur in any city. Mr. Jones said a reconnaissance team was inserted in the state forest on Wednesday and they walked through the swamp and trees and made their way to the facility. Once there they set up surveillance of the fictitious town Amber Land.

 

Friday’s exercise consisted of air craft landing and inserting a security team and an assault team. The scenario included searching the buildings for “the enemy,” innocent civilians or hostages, and collecting any evidence or intelligence.

 

“We have a 911 script with pre-planned responses ready for members of the public who may call in with concerns,” said Mr. Jones.

 

 

Lt. Valenzuela said, “The cool thing about RUT is to get them off Camp Lejuene. It is very easy for units training here to get used to training in facilities on the base.”

 

He added it gives the Marines something they haven’t seen before and a different location. Lt. Valenzuela said the locations off the base could have things like a fence or a gate they encounter and have to negotiate as part of the training scenario. It better simulates things they may encounter in the real world when they are conducting similar raids.

 

Lt. Kleiber said, “The most important thing is we are your Marine Corps. The taxpayers are paying for this.” He added it is good opportunity to showcase what the Marines can do and demonstrate to the public they are ready to respond to different missions.

 

Lt. Kleiber said he was at the training session to supervise some of the Marines and to act as a third party media source. Lt. Kleiber and Lt. Valenzuela both said the Marine Corps is trying to simulate the types of things those in training can face when they enter a real city and begin speaking and interacting with the citizens.

 

The White Lake Fire Department was on hand as well as Bladen County EMS and the Bladen County Sheriff’s Office.

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