The Department of Defense is holding an urban warfare training exercise at the former Tinley Park Mental Health Center site tonight and tomorrow, village officials have announced.
The government training exercises “will include building breaching and helicopter operations,” according to Mayor Ed Zabrocki.
“Building breaching” involves the use of small explosives that are used to take out doors, explained Pat Carr, the Emergency Management Agency’s director in Tinley Park.
“The Mental Health Center grounds provide a very realistic training environment for these different types of exercises,” Carr said.
Village officials are notifying the public about the training exercises to avoid frightening local citizens after the Boston Marathon bombing last week.
“The concern we have is that, when this occurs...on the hands of what happened in Boston, it's gonna make people's nerve-endings a little more sensitive,” Zabrocki said.
The Tinley Park Mental Health Center will be closed to the public during the event. Carr said there shouldn’t be too much noise from the helicopters or the explosives.
In the past two years, the Mental Health Center has been used during training exercises by the Illinois State Police, the Cook County Sheriff’s Office, Chicago Police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, in addition to Tinley Park’s public safety agencies.
“What’s unique about this one is that it goes on multiple days and it’s probably the largest of what we’ve had so far,” Zabrocki said.These urban warfare drills have been taking place with greater frequency in cities all across America. One of the first such excercises happened right here in Indianapolis five years ago when Mayor Greg Ballard, a former Marine, welcomed the military exercise with open arms as if might boost tourism. I watched part of the exercise unfold from the rooftop deck of my building downtown as blackhawk helicopters circled the downtown area. It appeared that the military was simulating an effort to build a protective barrier just outside the mile-square that encompasses the downtown area with staging areas on all four sides. Recent training exercises in Houston and other major cities alarmed local residents. More on that from The New American:
The most recent military exercises in urban areas were held this week in Texas — one over Houston and another in Galveston. In southeast Houston, U.S. Army Special Operations forces working with other agencies used unmarked military helicopters to “take over” a former local high school in the area as heavily armed men in fatigues ran around firing what most frightened residents assumed were live rounds.
"When you see this, you think the worst. When you hear this, you think the worst," area resident Frances Jerrals told a local ABC affiliate after witnessing the highly controversial exercise. "I felt like I was in a warzone. … It was nonstop. I was terrified." Other residents who spoke with reporters expressed similar sentiments, and emergency services reportedly responded to multiple reports of gun fire throughout the operation.
Police officials later apologized for not warning people about the exercise, though the Army claimed it had at least notified the city's public safety director. Still, local authorities, including the city council and the mayor, were never informed of the plans. "They should have notified us on this magnitude. They should have let somebody know," complained Houston Council Member Wanda Adams, who represents the district where the drill took place. Authorities also refused to tell reporters exactly what they were doing, according to local news reports.
In Galveston, meanwhile, residents suffered from a similar simulated military invasion by U.S. Army Special Operations forces working with other agencies; although there, at least, citizens were given advance warning in news reports. According to local media, some 80 soldiers and an unknown number of law enforcement agents firing “simulated ammunition” were involved in the “urban combat” operations. A military spokesman attempted to justify the scheme in a statement e-mailed to reporters.
"We were invited by the city of Galveston to conduct joint training exercises to enhance the effectiveness of both services in order to better protect the residents of Galveston," claimed Army spokesman Sgt. 1st Class Michael Noggle without touching on posse comitatus — legal restrictions on the domestic use of the armed forces. "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."
Before simulating “urban warfare” in Texas, the military was also conducting similar drills in Miami, Florida. Multiple videos have emerged online, some from news agencies, of U.S. military Black Hawk helicopters swarming around downtown last week — similar to late-night drills conducted in the city in 2011 without warning that left thousands of residents terrified. Prior to the latest exercises on January 24, however, local authorities issued a statement urging locals not to be alarmed.
“This is routine training conducted by military personnel designed to ensure the military’s ability to operate in urban environments, prepare forces for upcoming overseas deployments, and meet mandatory training certification requirement,” local police claimed in the statement cited in news reports, adding that the locations and times “were carefully selected to minimize negatively impacting the citizens of the City of Miami/Miami-Dade County and their daily routines.”Here's a local news report out of Miami on a recent urban warfare training exercise the military performed with local police.