- A training assault on abandoned buildings
in Kingsville by Army Special Forces troops last week has resulted in an
alarm on the Internet by those concerned about an armed government takeover.
- Kingsville Police Chief Felipe Garza
said he has received complaints from as far away as California and Florida
and has been invited to speak on talk-radio programs about the urban-warfare
- He has declined those invitations, saying
he and other city officials were happy to help the Army in its training
exercises and would invite the soldiers back again if asked. He said he
has no intention of getting into ideological arguments with people he calls
- "I'm not going to change their minds,
and they're not going to change mine. I'm not going to get into it with
them," Garza said. "Citizens here haven't been complaining."
- On Feb. 8, about 60 soldiers from Army
Special Forces teams based in Fort Bragg, N.C., swooped in on eight helicopters
for a training assault on abandoned buildings in downtown Kingsville. Explosions
and rifle fire startled nearby residents, and the attack caused a fire
that gutted an abandoned police building and blew windows out of another
- The soldiers have remained in the area,
doing training exercises in Port Aransas and in the Annaville/Calallen
area. They are expected to continue their exercises this week in and around
Corpus Christi before leaving the area by Saturday, said Walter Sokalski,
a spokesman for the Army Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg.
- The Special Forces teams are practicing
techniques for urban warfare, Sokalski said. Under cover of darkness, the
elite troops use training ammunition and explosives to attack the target
areas, he said. The exercises are loud, but they're safe, he added. "We
do an exhaustive risk assessment to make sure nothing comes out of the
blast area," Sokalski said, adding that the Army planned the exercises
months in advance with local officials.
- Corpus Christi City Manager David Garcia
said Monday that the city had been preparing for the operations and that
he was happy to help the Army in its training.
- "If we decided that we didn't want
to support the United States military, we could have told them to stay
out of the community," Garcia said. "I would like for these people
to know what they are doing when they go out and actually try to protect
America. "They told us that they prefer to keep this information confidential
and asked us to respect that. That's what we've been doing," he added.
- Conspiracy theories
- Others, however, may not see the training
as so benign. One of the reports about the training exercises circulating
on the Internet is at www.worldnetdaily.com. The story appears under the
headline, "Armed and Dangerous: Is the U.S. Army Invading Texas? -
Fear and Loathing in Kingsville."
- Another report found in a conspiracy
newsgroup - alt.conspracy.new-world-order - noted that reports of the exercise
have been circulating on radio and shortwave programs. On talk-radio programs,
callers were linking the training exercises to the possible societal meltdown
when the Y2K problem hits, after which the government will supposedly declare
- But even outside of conspiracy circles,
some officials are upset that residents have not been informed of the training
exercises. On Monday, Kleberg County commissioners voted unanimously to
write a letter to officials with Army Special Forces asking them to inform
county officials and the public in advance if they perform another military
- Tomas Sanchez, the county's emergency
management coordinator and veterans service officer, said he was not informed
about the maneuvers before they took place. The county judge and commissioners
also said they didn't know about the exercises.
- "I was in Austin for training and
all of a sudden my beeper started going ballistic," Sanchez said.
"I had no idea what to tell people, because I did not know it was
- Unwanted risk
- Sanchez said that if he had known, he
would have tried to stop the exercises. "I think they are dangerous
to the people of Kingsville, " he said. "There have been a lot
of crashes of low-flying helicopters in these type of maneuvers, and in
one instance citizens on the ground were killed. I don't think it is a
risk we want to take." Sanchez said he thinks the Army should have
had public affairs officers come in after the exercise and explain what
- "This puts the Army in a very bad
light," Sanchez said. "It scares citizens to see black unmarked
helicopters and men jumping out of them in black Ninja suits."
- Sanchez said that the maneuvers may have
been related to the Y2K problem and were a possible preparation for martial
law as the year 2000 approaches.
- "The American public is not the
enemy," Sanchez said.
- Terrified residents
- Commissioner Romeo Lomas said he lives
two blocks from where the exercises took place and took calls from many
terrified residents in his precinct.
- "There are a lot of elderly people
that live in Casa Ricardo and other places near there," Lomas said.
"They were very scared. Some people thought the bank was robbed. One
woman thought the world was coming to an end and went into her room and
started praying. She said her heart was pounding like mad. If they want
to do exercises in urban warfare, let them do it in Miami. Kingsville is
a rural area."
- County Judge Allen May said he wished
he had been told about the maneuvers. "I was getting calls from reporters
from Washington andAustin asking what happened and I had to say I didn't
know," May said.
- Lomas said that Police Chief Garza should
have thought before he allowed the forces to come to Kingsville. "Now
we are all taking the blame," he said.
- Other uproars
- Similar exercises have caused uproars
in other cities in the past. In June 1996, police in Pittsburgh were swamped
with phone calls after about 50 Special Forces troops started rappelling
from helicopters during a mock attack on abandoned warehouses.
- One witness reported the attack sent
his pregnant wife into labor, and radio talk shows were filled with callers
concerned about "black helicopters" and possible military attacks
on American citizens, according to news accounts at the time. And in March
1997, city officials in Charlotte, N.C., asked Army special operations
troops to take their exercises elsewhere after more than 100 soldiers began
attacking an abandoned bus garage and warehouse downtown, according to
- When Charlotte City Councilman Malachi
Greene came into the neighborhood that evening, he found startled residents
carrying weapons in case the troops advanced, he said. Corpus Christi residents
in the Annaville area said they were not startled when they saw the helicopters
involved in the exercises Sunday evening.
- "They were landing out by the refineries,
and then flying real low along by the river," area resident Charlie
Maroon said. He said he counted two or three helicopters without their
lights on as he and neighbors watched the exercises for about an hour.
- "It was kind of interesting, and
kind of mysterious," Maroon said, adding that he didn't mind having
the soldiers training nearby. "I just wish they'd come out and tell
us what they're doing."
- Staff writer Jim Day can be reached at
886-3794 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Staff writer Mary Lee Grant can
be reached at 886-3752 or by e-mail at email@example.com