Been seeing black helicopters overhead? Uniformed troops with guns drawn? Armored vehicles cruising through your residential neighborhood?
Worry not; it’s just the U.S. military’s Special Operations Command doing “realistic urban training” for military maneuvers on site in cities across the United States because that’s what they need to be able to do, according to the military.
One of the reports in just the past few days came from Miami.
There, the Herald reported military helicopters were “buzzing” neighborhoods.
It was similar to April 2011, the report said, when military helicopters “buzzed through Brickell, leading to sleepless nights for some people and a lot of griping on social media about it.”
And KTRK in Houston reported the sound of gunfire and the helicopters overhead “created a lot of concern Monday afternoon in one Houston neighborhood.”
According to the station’s report, “With military helicopters flying above her southeast Houston neighborhood, Frances Jerrals didn’t know what to think.
“‘When you see this, you think the worst. When you hear this, you think the worst,’ Jerrals said.”
The report said the Army “took over the old Carnegie Vanguard High School.”
“There were armed men in fatigues, plenty of weapons and what many though were real live rounds.”
The events have a history of causing alarm.
During a recent drill in Miami, a photographer “captured video of a military helicopter firing its machine guns as it flew over an area freeway.”
“The chopper was firing blanks, but an artist visiting the city didn’t know.”
Josh Epperson said, according to the report, “‘I heard the machine gun fire and then I hit the deck … I didn’t know what to expect, and it was one of the loudest things I’d ever heard.”
Army spokesman Michael Noggle told WND the military considers the drills routine.
He said it’s the responsibility of local authorities who give the military permission to stage practice assaults to notify their residents.
“These are standard training exercises known [as] realistic urban training conducted by units from United States Special Operations Command,” he said.
Noggle said the “purpose of the realistic urban training is to give our Special Operators an opportunity to hone their skills in a controlled, but unfamiliar, realistic urban environment that cannot be replicated with the bare-boned facades found on military installation ranges.”
The Special Operations teams, he said, want to train away from their home bases because they know the layout there, maybe too well to make training effective.
“Though we have excellent training areas on military installations, it is impossible to replicate what a real urban environment offers,” Noggle explained. “It is important for our military members to train in a variety of different locations and unfamiliar environments to prepare for combat overseas. This city provides a great opportunity to capitalize on the unfamiliarity of a large, urban environment and has worked well so far, thanks in large part to the cooperation of the mayor’s office and local law enforcement.”
He said people really shouldn’t be alarmed, because the military works with local authorities, who are supposed to notify their residents.
“There is a very detailed DOD realistic urban training approval process that USSOCOM complies before conducting any training outside of a military installation,” Noggle told WND. “Foremost is notifying (and gaining permission from) the local law enforcement as well as local government officials. It is left to the discretion of the local law enforcement and government officials to notify the general public of military training.”
But when that fails, and people are alarmed, he said, it’s not the military’s fault.
“I think it is important to note that these training exercises are in coordination with local law enforcement officials,” he said. “We work very hard to inform and protect the local population, our interface is through the local authorities. We were invited by the cities to conduct joint training exercises to enhance the effectiveness of both services in order to better protect the residents.
“The Army sincerely appreciates the cooperation that we receive from the local residents and businesses in the vicinity of theses training exercises; we regret that this caused concern and angst amongst some residents.”
WBBM radio in Chicago reported a local “drill” also was being planned in a public school, this time by the local Gary Grove police department.
Cary Grove High School principal Jay Sargeant said the event would include “shooting blanks from a gun.”
The purpose was to condition teachers and students to the sound of gunfire, the report said.
The logic escaped some parents, the station said.
“If you need to run a drill, you run a drill,” parent Sharon Miller told WBBM. “They run fire drills all the time, but they don’t run up and down the hallway with a flamethrower.
In September, Minneapolis was the scene of similar “drills” involving Black Hawk helicopters and based around “confrontation scenarios.”
Asked about the exercises which had been ongoing all week in downtown Minneapolis, Melissa Hill, a records clerk at a law firm in the city, told the Star-Tribune newspaper: “To me it’s really frightening. Military copters flying around in our airspace in an urban setting – it kind of conditions people to accept a police state.”