Army's Delta Force Assaults
Facility In San Antonio Texas
By Sig Christenson and Jennifer Walsh
Express-News Staff Writers
The Army's Delta Force anti-terrorist team struck the old Brooke Army Medical Center building Thursday night.
The roar of helicopters and the crackle of small arms fire echoed into nearby neighborhoods.
Eight helicopters swept over the vacant BAMC. Sniper teams surrounded the seven-story building while other commandoes worked through rooms and corridors with flashlights during a mock operation to recover classified equipment.
The operation dazzled residents of nearby Terrell Hills. With every loud boom, Patricia Krichner, 18, hugged her sister.
"Those are the guys that are fighting for us," Sonya Krichner, 14, said, punching her fist in the air.
The raid began with two small helicopters flying in from the southeast. Seconds later, six larger UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters buzzed low over a nearby parade ground.
Suddenly, a helicopter cut into the building's light and seemed to almost vertically scale the wall.
"Woah," neighborhood resident Kent Ely said, tilting backward as he watched through binoculars.
The copters flew so slowly and low that onlookers could see the faces of crew members, their legs dangling outside the craft.
Flashes of yellow light, followed seconds later by the sounds of muffled explosions, could be seen and heard as commandoes rappelled to the roof.
The Fort Sam assault followed a mock hostage rescue Wednesday night at the abandoned Nueces County Courthouse in downtown Corpus Christi and caps a training exercise dubbed "Last Dance."
Corpus Christi City Manager David Garcia said the unit was identified as Delta Force members during planning discussions six months ago that led to the involvement of the police SWAT team.
Details about the Alamo City exercise and others like it weren't revealed by the U.S. Army Special Operations Command in Fort Bragg, N.C., and officials wouldn't say if Delta Force was involved.
But Special Operations Command spokesman Walt Sokalski assured San Antonians the soldiers would conduct a safe exercise.
"It's always safe," he said.
Police and Fort Sam officials cautioned news media and onlookers not to use strobe lights or flashes, which can temporarily blind those wearing night vision goggles.
"We anticipated about 30 minutes," said Fort Sam spokesman Phil Reidinger. "It lasted 55. But that's OK. They got some good training, which is what we wanted to do for them."
Several streets were closed during the exercise, including Harry Wurzbach Highway.
Through about half the assault, flashes of light and explosions inside the building could be seen.
A command and control helicopter hovered high above the parade ground throughout the drill.
"They told us there would be explosives and helicopters and it would last about 45 minutes," said Ely, 23, whose house is located along the gate of Fort Sam Houston. "I figured I'd see a little excitement, like what war is like."
Cars pulled over and residents came out of their homes when they heard and felt vibrations from the explosions and saw TV news crews along Burr Road, the thoroughfare bordering the northwest edge of the post. The crowd of about 30 was quiet as they watched.
"This is creepy because it could really be happening right in my back door," said Deborah Center, who lives five blocks away.
Patricia Krichner was arriving at her home on Burr Road, unaware of any warnings when she heard the loud explosions.
"It scared me," she said. "It's not something you see every day, and hey, we've got live action right outside of our house."
Every glimpse of a copter drew excited yelps from the crowd.
At the end of the mission, hidden helicopters were revealed as the choppers turned on their navigation lights.
"There he was on the ground the whole time right underneath that tree," Center said of a helicopter she could hear but not see.