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County could see military activity this week

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Marines preparing for upcoming deployment

By Kevin Koelling, Managing Editor

PERRY COUNTY - Marines preparing for deployment next year will conduct an exercise in southern Indiana and northern Kentucky beginning Thursday and continuing through Oct. 7.

He couldn't say specifically what Perry County people will see, Marine Capt. Robert Shuford told The News Friday, but activity here will likely be limited to flyovers of military aircraft such as Ospreys, Harriers and Huey and Cobra helicopters.

Activities will be dependent on the missions for each day, the Camp Lejeune, N.C. public-affairs officer said, with the heaviest air activity between Thursday and Tuesday.

Much of the training will be concentrated in the Camp Atterbury area, but eight sites in Perry County have been identified as possible landing zones on a map provided by Dave Nugent, National Park Service fire logistics dispatcher in Tell City. One lies between Indiana 37 and Tipsaw Lake, two are just south of the county's north boundary and the rest are between Indiana 66 and the eastern border.

Shuford reported in a Sept. 14 news release nearly 2,300 Marines and sailors will converge on Camp Atterbury for two weeks of intensive training that will also involve the Muscatatuck Urban Training Center, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio and Ft. Knox, Ky.

"The Realistic Urban Training Exercise, or RUT, is a critical part of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit's training cycle that prepares them to respond to a variety of missions they may face on their deployment," he wrote in the release. The training will help the Marines hone their skills in firing weapons, conducting patrols, operating vehicle checkpoints, reacting to ambushes, responding to mass-casualty scenarios and countering threats posed by roadside bombs.

"Much of the training will center on what the Marines call situational training exercises," Shuford explained. Mock orders designed to replicate the types of missions they're likely to face will require the Marines to plan missions in detail, then execute them in the southern Indiana-northern Kentucky area. The training has drawn on lessons learned by U.S. forces fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, and many of the participating Marines and sailors have deployed to both countries.

The unit's commanding officer, Col. Pete Petronzio, said the training will help the Marines become ready for anything.

"The MEU is an awesome capability for the nation," he said. "We're able to deploy anywhere in the world with our Navy counterparts and conduct everything from humanitarian assistance to full-scale combat operations."

Petronzio called the area ideally suited to the MEU's needs. Shuford told The News the training was coordinated for months with federal, state and local political and law-enforcement officials. The Marines kicked off their pre-deployment training program in June, and before completing the upcoming exercise, will have completed a host of specialized combat courses, field training exercises and at-sea drills aboard the ships they will live on for at least seven months next year.

Shuford said he and others will go into areas where the Marines' activities will be more noticeable to inform local residents. Where aircraft landings occur, people are welcome to observe activities but shouldn't approach military equipment, and should be aware helicopter landings create downwash that kicks up dirt and debris.

The eight Perry County sites are among 45 identified as landing zones, and not all of them will be used, Shuford said.

A hotline has been established at (877) 676-0396 by which people can report any problems, concerns or damage arising from the exercise.