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A special unit of U.S. Marines will arrive in Birmingham, AL, next
Monday to prepare for an exercise in countering urban guerrilla warfare.

Some 243 soldiers will have assault rifles in hand to execute secret
missions and perform various maneuvers in the city, according to Marine
spokesmen.

The 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit exercise is part of a program
called TRUE, or Training in the Urban Environment. The Marines will stay
at Fort McClellan in Anniston for the nearly two-week exercise, said
Staff Sgt. Chris Cox, head of public affairs for the unit.

“We’re going to put as small a footprint on the city as possible,”
Cox explained. “There will be a little bit of helicopter noise.”

All of the operations, including the exact timing of the exercises,
was being kept secret from the public, Cox explained. A public
demonstration at an undetermined time and location was being scheduled
for Aug. 2, he said.

“This is a great opportunity for the MEU (Marine Expeditionary Unit)
to show what they can do,” said Cox.

Since similar exercises have been conducted recently in Chicago,
Jacksonville, FL, and other U.S. cities, the question on some minds is:
Who exactly are the Marines preparing to wage war with in America’s
urban environments?

The training is part of a certification program in “urban combat.”
The program includes missions, such as rescuing a pilot, which the
Marines might be called to perform in foreign countries such as Somalia,
Cox explained. The Marines will also have to complete amphibious
missions in Puerto Rico.

Marine officials say the urban landscape adds a new dimension to the
training the Marines have already received.

“Driving a light armored vehicle on an open field is a lot different
than driving it on a city street,” said Cox.

In Jacksonville last week, a group of 100 Marines played war games
that assumed the city had been ripped asunder by two political factions.
The Marines’ job was to wrest control of key parts of the city.
Officials explained during that exercise that it was part of a program
called “Urban Warrior,” which assumed future wars are increasingly
likely to be waged on city streets.

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