Published Saturday, November 13, 1999, in The State.
Storming CCI by sunlight, Marines offer show of force
By DAVE MONIZ
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
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
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
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 thestate.com.
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