Another Surprise Army Special
Ops 'Exercise' In Texas
Military training disrupts Port Arthur Texas residents
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
Maneuvers Surprise Kingsville
By Mary Lee Grant Staff Writer 2-12-99
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 urban situations.
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 thing."
`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 added.
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 maneuvers.
"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 Staff writer Doreen Bowens contributed to this report.