Military exercises rile residents

Published: Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at 01:52 PM.

Jeff Mason, VATC’s director of training coordination, said the focus is to conduct realistic military training on private properties, with the permission of local landowners, law enforcement and the county commissioners.

This last go-round, which also included larger exercises a week prior, employed the former golf ball factory on River Road. “That facility is as realistic as we’re going to find,” Mason said. “At a base most facilities are special operations command. A unit will contact us and say we like to do realistic military training.”

He said the firm has received a few complaints, mainly about helicopters from people living up the river. He said the military on Monday used Navy CH-53 helicopters. “We try to keep times we do this earlier so it doesn’t disturb locals as much.”

Mason said the firm pays to use property, buys gas and lodging locally, and employs role players, usually off0duty deputies, to assist in the exercises.

Spaits said that the GRASI study should be complete by the fall, which is the earliest any GRASI exercises would be done.

“We don’t know whether it’s going to be helicopters. It may not be. It may just be radar-type devices. It could be small teams of four to 11 guys maneuvering through the forest,” he said. “We’re still studying the potential impacts.” 

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