- Military training disrupts Port Arthur
- Local officials say they were unprepared
for questions, complaints from residents about exercises
- From staff reports
- The Department of Defense conducted training
Friday in Port Aransas similar to exercises earlier this week in Kingsville,
Channel 6 News reported.
- Port Aransas Mayor Glenn Martin said
he didn't know how to answer questions from residents about the training
because he hadn't been notified.
- "I didn't know what was going on,"
Martin said. "They were calling me up asking me about a bunch of black
helicopters." Carol Darby, a spokeswoman for Army Special Operations
Command in Fort Bragg, said this week that the public never is notified
before such exercises because it poses an security risk and also a danger
to residents, who tend to gather to watch.
- She has said that there may be other
exercises in Kingsville, Corpus Christi and around Fort Sam Houston before
next Saturday but didn't elaborate.
- Darby has said that as the world grows
more urban, it is important for special forces to practice their skills
in a variety of urban environments.
- Monday's training in Kingsville led to
a fire in the abandoned former police station. Army officials have said
they will pay for the damage.
- Staff writer Doreen C. Bowens contributed
to this report. She can be reached at 886-4334 or by e-mail at email@example.com
- Maneuvers Surprise Kingsville
- By Mary Lee Grant Staff Writer
- KINGSVILLE - Army troops from Fort Bragg, N.C., conducted a practice operation
that frightened unsuspecting residents and caused a fire in the abandoned
former police station.
- One part of the exercise included grenade
explosions that broke the windows of the abandoned former Exxon building,
Police Chief Felipe Garza said Tuesday.
- Several abandoned downtown buildings
were used Monday evening by Army Special Operations Command troops from
Fort Bragg and by the Kingsville Police Department.
- Officials said the exercise involved
eight Apache helicopters, which flew low over town dropping off officers
in a two-block area.
- Garza said the exercises were part of
urban environmental training for the Army, so they can learn to fight in
- Garza wouldn't go into further detail
about the maneuvers. "It was secret," he said. "I really
can't talk a lot about it. But no one was hurt and that was the important
- `Routine training'
- "This is routine training for special
operations," said Maj. Jeff Fanto, spokesman for the command headquarters
at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida. "They're practicing skills of
getting in and out of urban areas and special operations for the missions
they're responsible for."
- Kingsville was chosen as a site for the
operations because one of the officers was from Kingsville, Garza said.
- The fire in the old police department
at 200 N. 6th St. started at about 8 p.m. and was put out in about 20 minutes,
Kingsville Fire Department Capt. Roel Cavazos said.
- The interior of the building was destroyed
and serious structural damage was done to the roof, Cavazos said. Expensive
electrical equipment was also damaged, he said. "There was some electrical
equipment that caught on fire," Cavazos said. "They tried to
contain the fire themselves and apparently it went out of control."
- No estimate of the damage was available,
he said. The military offered the city compensation for the damage, Cavazos
- Fire and broken windows
- The fire was caused by a welding torch
cutting through steel wires as part of the military maneuvers, Garza said.
- "The fire department was on alert,"
the police chief said. "So we were ready."
- Garza said grenades were set off in the
abandoned Exxon building on Sixth Street about a block from the old police
station, causing the windows to shatter. "It was safe because the
windows were boarded up," Garza said.
- Local reaction
- County officials were surprised by the
- "I didn't know about it until people
asked me about it today," said Kleberg County Judge Allen May. "I
don't think people were very upset by it."
- Garza said he received about 50 phone
calls from residents concerned about the maneuvers. "Some were upset,
but most understood," he said.
- Maria Garcia, 35, a secretary, said the
helicopters flew over her house south of Kingsville, shaking the walls
and rattling pictures. "I went outside and I had no idea what was
going on," she said. "I was scared."
- Randall Jarris, 42, a farmer, said he
resented the maneuvers. "I don't really like this town being turned
into a war zone," he said. "Someone could have gotten hurt."
- Staff writer Mary Lee Grant can be reached
at 886-3752 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Staff writer Doreen Bowens
contributed to this report.