Marines in Valley Urban Warfare Arizona Republic
Marines in Valley Urban Warfare Arizona Republic
Mon Mar 1 14:31:23 2004

Marines in Valley to train for urban war

David Madrid
The Arizona Republic
Feb. 29, 2004 12:00 AM

During the first half of March, military helicopters will be buzzing the Valley and Marines will be running around some neighborhoods in full combat attire.

It won't be World War III or a homeland security crisis. It will be the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit out of Camp Pendleton, Calif., tuning up its urban-warfare techniques.

Marine Gunnery Sgt. Chago Zapata said the exercise will be part of a six-month training program the unit must complete before being deployed to the western Pacific and Arabian Gulf regions.

He said the locations where the action will occur can't be released for security reasons, but Marines will go door to door, talking to Valley residents and handing out flyers in affected neighborhoods before they begin their exercises.

"There's going to be some training going on and things they (residents) don't usually see, like helicopters flying around and Marines in camouflage uniforms, although they won't see them in the streets all the time," Zapata said.

As part of the training, Marine helicopter pilots will practice urban flying and navigation techniques using routes and altitudes approved by the Federal Aviation Administration.

The Marines will also coordinate their activities with federal, state and local law-enforcement agencies.

The gunnery sergeant stressed that the training isn't being done in response to any threat to the region.

"It pretty much involves the global war on terror," he said. "That's what we'll be supporting,"

When deployed overseas, the unit must be prepared to rapidly take action in a wide variety of urban locations. With 75 percent of the world's population living in urban areas, the training is crucial.

The Marines have been doing this type of training in various American cities since 1985. They will be in the Valley March 1-14.

The last time they were here was in March 2000.

It won't be all street-warfare practice and helicopters, though. There is a lot of planning involved, Zapata said.

It will also take a few beds and some chow.

Luke Air Force base will house the Marine unit at unoccupied housing that is slated for either demolition or renovation as part of Luke's modernization efforts.

The base will also feed the 350 Marines and store their equipment.

Reach the reporter at  or (602) 444-6926.



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