Marines in Columbia. "Holy deja vu Batman!"

Nurev Ind Research nurev at
Sat Nov 13 09:53:10 PST 1999

Published Saturday, November 13, 1999, in The State.

Storming CCI by sunlight, Marines offer show of force


Staff Writer

At 2:55 Friday afternoon, Columbia got a first good look

at its marauding Marine Corps guests.

From rope ladders and giant helicopters squatting on an

old prison yard, about 50 Marines descended onto a

building's roof and nearby grounds of the former Central

Correctional Institution.

Within minutes, the rifle-toting warriors from the 24th

Marine Expeditionary Unit at Camp Lejeune, N.C., were

busy "securing" the former jailhouse and "capturing" an

extremist group trying to build a bomb.

The daylight exercise in the Vista is part of two weeks of

urban-warfare training the Marines are conducting in the

capital city. From the roof of a nearby parking garage,

Marine commanders, a squadron of reporters and a few

curious spectators watched the helicopter-borne

Marines complete their objective.

"Terrific," observed Meta Rose, a Camden resident who

watched the maneuvers with her husband, William, from

several hundred yards away.

The Roses wanted to see firsthand what the Marines are

doing in Columbia this week. They came away

impressed with the leathernecks' execution of the "hard

hit" raid after peering through binoculars at the distant

training ground.

Friday's scenario was the second conducted by the 24th

MEU, which will stage urban-warfare training in Columbia

through Thursday. Marine commanders, who had been

nearly silent about the exercises until Friday, outlined the

24th MEU's game plan with charts and maps Friday.

Master Sgt. David Lynch explained the Marines are

staging an ongoing war game set in a fictional Balkan

landscape. On Friday, they planned and executed a raid

to disarm a bomb made by extremists. Earlier this week,

the Marines conducted a nighttime raid of an industrial

complex near Carolina Coliseum looking for shadowy


For the Marines' exercises here this month, Lynch said,

Columbia will be turned into a potentially hostile area

much like Kosovo.

Lt. Col. Ron Watson, operations officer with the Special

Operations Training Group creating the scenarios, said

the Marines try to invent situations that will ready units

for upcoming missions. Early next year, the 24th MEU

will deploy to the Balkans for six months.

"We do this to prepare the MEU for the most likely

missions once they are deployed," Watson said.

Today, commanders will return to CCI with Marines who

took part in the training for a detailed critique of the

performance. Watson and his colleagues threw a curve

into Friday's exercise, creating a situation where the

MEU was required to quickly evacuate a casualty during

the exercise.

Brig. Gen. Robert Flanagan, commander of the 2nd

Marine Expeditionary Force, said the Marines will gain

immeasurably from the exercises.

"This is one kind of an urban area," he said, pointing to

the large brick building once part of the notorious CCI


"We're trying to show them all different environments,"

Flanagan said, pointing toward downtown Columbia,

where the whoop-whoop of helicopters and loud bangs

from grenades could be heard in the distance.

Dave Moniz covers the military in South Carolina and

reports on military trends in the Southeast. He can be

reached at (803) 771-8462 or by e-mail at

dmoniz at

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