Locals complain about exercise ‘imposing martial law’
The U.S. Army chose a quiet community in central Utah as the training ground for Special Forces soldiers needing to develop Jason Bourne-like skills and to learn how to build a resistance movement by infiltrating the town leadership.
With the deeply religious culture present in Manti, Utah and the desert landscape of the area, residents were deemed ideal candidates by the Defense Department to role play with soldiers in the 10th Special Forces as part of a several week training exercise in July on unconventional warfare tactics.
Now that sequestration is in full effect, the Utah mission was called on Thursday, to the relief of residents who had feared their community would turn into a scene out of Hunger Games.
The exercise, named Robin Sage, is a component of Phase Four training for Army Special Forces soldiers, also known as the Green Berets.
Lasting four weeks, the large-scale exercise is typically held at Fort Bragg in North Carolina but officials were looking for a closer locale for soldiers of the 4th battalion of the 10th Special Forces, stationed at Fort Carson near Colorado Springs.
‘Every place we go [to train] is a different culture… a different mentality throws them off and requires [soldiers] to adapt,’ Staff Sgt. Ryan Sabin, a spokesman for the 10th Special Forces, told The Salt Lake Tribune.
Last fall, officials representing the DOD met with communities across Central Utah, including Sanpete, Sevier, Emery and Carbon counties, to recruit local governments to host the training exercise scheduled for July 2013.
As part of the planned Utah training three teams of 12 soldiers would approach residents, who were respected leaders in business and in the Mormon church, and enlist their help in building a coalition.
A total of 30 citizens would participate in the missions, mainly during the evening hours, in Sanpete and Sevier counties and in Emery-Carbon county.
Over a two week period the plainclothes soldiers would depend on their civilian allies for food, lodging, transportation and supplies.
No live ammunition would be used and no private property would be entered without the owner’s permission, according to the rules of the mission.
Army officials said that utilizing real-life community leaders in their own setting would be more cost effective than having to create a fake setting for the training at the National Guard training site at Camp Williams.
Army Special Forces soldiers, also known as the Green Berets, train foreign troops in unconventional warfare tactics
But the prospect of a military infiltration raised concern among the residents.
At a Manti City Council Meeting on November 7, one resident accused the government of dishonorable and deceptive motives for the mission.
Another citizen, Alan Braithwaite, said the training exercise was the first step in the U.S. government turning the country into a police state.
Concerned parents wondered if their children would be safe and if tanks and helicopters would fill the streets and skies. Others feared that soldiers looking for some R&R would run rampant and would corrupt the youth.
So when the plan fell by the wayside due to budget cuts, many welcomed the news but some are still hopeful the exercise will go forward at some point in the future.
‘This is not a one-time shot, lost to Utah. There will be other opportunities,’ Paul Weddle, a retired Green Beret contracted to help the Army set up the exercise in Utah, told the Tribune.
‘There’s a chance that it may be rescheduled for next year but that remains to be determined,’ he added.