SWANSBORO, N.C. — “This is training for urban warfare against the American people,” said Marty Proctor, owner of the Main Street Deli, regarding the activity that has been taking place directly in front of his business.
Marines from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit from Camp Lejeune, N.C. have been engaged in urban warfare training exercises in Mobile, Ala. and Swansboro, N.C. this past week. Some of their critics claim the training in civilian areas violates the law, but their supporters welcome them with open arms.
“They’re just preparing for when people get pissed off enough to start saying ‘enough’s enough,'” said Proctor, who believes the military plans to one day use force against the American people who refuse to turn in their guns.
But while a relatively small number of residents may fear the Marines are training to be a domestic police force, the Marines say they are only preparing for possible challenges when they go to the Mediterranean area in July.
Members of the elite unit have been in Swansboro all week training with the local police at checkpoints and neighborhood patrols. Despite the ominous appearance of over 100 different armed soldiers each day, residents and elected officials have welcomed the military exercise.
“Camp Lejeune has done so much to help our local law enforcement. This is our chance to give back,” said Swansboro Police Chief Harry Pugliese in a WorldNetDaily report last Friday. His police officers have received frequent training opportunities at Camp Lejeune without charge to the city. Phone inquiries as to the nature of the training were not returned.
The receptionist at City Hall said the only complaints she has received have come from out-of-state readers of WorldNetDaily. She said she has not received any complaints from residents.
A Swansboro Area Chamber of Commerce spokeswoman said that business owners have not complained to her office. She said she knows Proctor, but was unaware that he is upset. Marines in the street in front of his deli have caused a severe drop in his regular business. Their appearance was intimidating, he said, and kept people away.
The Marines set up a checkpoint directly in front of the police station where they posted a sign that read, “Military Checkpoint Ahead.” The only cars that were pulled over were those with a special sign in the window indicating they had volunteered to be searched, according to military spokesmen. (Must have Microsoft Word to view this banner.)
Firearms are the objective of the search, according to one of the Marines being trained. When a car is pulled over, they first examine the bottom of the vehicle using special mirrors. Then they search the interior. Special fake weapons have been planted in some of the volunteer’s cars to see if the trainees are good enough to find them.
Volunteers were warned that local police would also be involved in the search and that they would be subject to all laws. It is not known if anyone has actually been arrested for a real violation, because police officers have declined to speak with WorldNetDaily and Pugliese has not returned calls.
Proctor said some residents complained to him about being frightened when the Marines at the checkpoints actually pointed automatic weapons at them.
|Marines searched cars at police checkpoints in Swansboro, N.C. Photo by Dave Komenas.|
Several Marines were willing to remove the magazine from their rifle and show that it was empty upon request. Despite the fact that weapons were not loaded, many people were not aware of that and were fearful as they saw Marines crouched and lying behind sandbags with their machine guns pointed at cars approaching the checkpoint. Military vehicles were also present with automatic weapons mounted on them.
|Marines pointed machine guns at civilians who approached their checkpoint locations. Photo by Dave Komenas.|
Marines questioned by WorldNetDaily said it was part of their job to look as intimidating as possible.
“Most people see police officers on a day to day basis and think nothing of it. They’re not intimidated, as they should be. When we’re seen, it’s an intimidation thing more than anything,” said one of the Marines on the first day of the exercise.
|This Marine was stationed outside the Swansboro Police Station. Photo by Dave Komenas.|
Asked if residents should be concerned about the military acting as a police force, he said, “It’s a new world. It’s a new world.” Other Marines made similar comments.
Marine officers prevented additional direct conversations with their trainees, and also prevented WorldNetDaily from talking with people who had been searched.
Contrary to their statements that the Marines searched only vehicles with the “volunteer” sign in the window, cars without the sign were observed being searched at the checkpoints — some with small children who appeared frightened.
Proctor said town officials should have consulted with residents and business owners before granting permission for the Marines to come to town.
“I think they should have called a town meeting and sent out letters and things to the business people who were going to be affected by it,” said Proctor. “It’s really affected our business down here.”
The Marines were patrolling up and down the street in front of Proctor’s deli in large numbers. Several out-of-towners came in to the store to ask what was going on, attempting to decide whether to stay or leave.
|Over 100 Marines, some carrying machine guns, have patrolled the streets of Swansboro, N.C. every day for a week of training. Photo by Dave Komenas.|
A man and woman pulled up when Proctor was taking the trash out and said they were too afraid to get out of their car.
“They had little kids. Of course they don’t want the kids walking up and down the street with people in camouflage gear carrying M-16 machine guns. We saw a guy today that was carrying an M-60. One guy was there with an M-60 in the prone position aiming it down the street,” complained Proctor.
He said other business owners and residents come in his shop and express how upset they are, but few will speak out in public or to the press.
“I think they won’t say (they are upset). I think they’re afraid to say,” said Proctor.
The Marines are not in violation of any law or of the Posse Comitatus Act, according to Col. David Jones, Ret. USMC, now the military advisor to North Carolina Gov. James Hunt.
Critics point to the Posse Comitatus act, as well as U.S. Code Sections 10, 18, and 32 as areas of law possibly being violated by the Marines.
“I know they do these exercises all over the country. As long as you have the permission of the local municipality, I think that’s all you need, but I don’t have a legal fix on that,” said Jones.
Hunt would not respond to requests for a comment, and his spokeswoman referred all questions to Jones. She did say that Hunt was not advised about the Marine training exercise in advance and was not asked for permission.
Jones said his wife served as a volunteer to go through one of the checkpoints, adding that his wife’s car was searched with mirrors when she went through.
“These guys that are training are the same ones you see evacuating embassies. This is the Marine Expeditionary Unit that’s constantly in the Mediterranean. To make the training as realistic as possible, they like to put themselves in an area where they have dogs and regular civilian kinds of traffic. God, I’m glad they’re on our side,” said Jones.
When asked about complaints that the Marines are training to be a domestic police force, or enforce martial law in the U.S., Jones said, “That’s ridiculous. I can tell you from my experience, there is no state that has a better relationship with its military than the state of North Carolina.”
He agreed with Pugliese that North Carolina police receive a great deal of free training at Camp Lejeune, and that this was an opportunity to thank them for all they have given to the police.
“Our governor’s very aware of the importance of the military to the economy of the state. It accounts for a direct economic impact of $6.5 billion a year. That’s just the direct impact, not all the rollover and everything else,” Jones explained.
The same 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit was also conducting simultaneous training in Mobile, Ala. Advance permission was gained from the elected officials and police department prior to the week-long Training in an Urban Environment Exercise, TRUEX.
|Marines participating in TRUEX, a training exercise in Mobile, Ala. Photo by USMC.|
As part of the Alabama operation, Marines were flown in by two helicopters and slid down ropes to the roof of an abandoned department store. About 50 Marines participated in the assault on the building.
Once on the roof, the Marines must then penetrate the building and secure it floor by floor, according to Marine spokesman Cpl. Derek A. Shoemake. He told of the Marine’s efforts to help relationships between the Marines and local citizens.
Prior to the start of the actual exercise, about 100 Marines showed up at Hank Aaron Stadium for a minor league baseball game. Col. Kenneth J. Glueck, Marine Expeditionary Unit Commander threw out the first pitch and Marines provided a color guard ceremony.
“Without the people of Mobile, we wouldn’t be able to train here,” said Glueck. “They have given us tremendous support.”
Shoemake said that support came in the form of Mobile city officials allowing the Marines to use their city for part of TRUEX.
“I hope this inspires people,” said Sgt. Sam Johnston, who stood with the Marines on the ball field. “I have seen a lot of guys tonight who were thinking about joining the Marine Corps. I hope this shows them the rewards it can offer. Plus, it’s kind of fun to show off.”
Just hours before the baseball game, Mobile Mayor Michael C. Dow thanked Glueck at a press conference in City Hall for what his unit has done. Dow also presented Glueck the Key to the City.
“The Marines of the (26th MEU) are part of the forces who defend our country,” he said. “We should make every effort to honor our men and women who wear that uniform.”
|Marines were taught to use non-lethal weapons to control crowds, such as the use of police batons. Photo by USMC.|
In an earlier training exercise in February, the same unit that has been training in Swansboro and Mobile was learning how to use non-lethal weapons in an urban environment. The training took place at the Stone Bay Physical Training field at Camp Lejeune.
During the two-week course, Marines learned how to control various types of crowds and study the backgrounds, uses and applications of non-lethal weapons.
Some of the weapons covered in the course are foam rubber projectiles and stinger balls, which can be loaded into an M-209 grenade launcher. They learned to use special beanbags and rubber cylinders fired from a shotgun. Marines also learned how to use a police baton and pepper spray to control crowds.
“If I’m controlling a crowd in another country, (anything could happen),” said Lt. Cpl. William N. Bernardiz. “If someone gets out of hand, I may need to protect myself, but at the same time I can’t cause an international incident by using unnecessary force.”
Camp Lejeune serves as “test-bed” for the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab to develop urban warfare skills, according to their website.