SALT LAKE CITY — If all goes as planned, few people in Utah will even know that a Marine Corps special operations unit is conducting an urban training mission.
“The likelihood of you seeing one of my Marines, if they’re doing their jobs correctly, is about zero, as it should be ,” said Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Buffu, addressing the Salt Lake County Council on Tuesday afternoon.
But because the training, scheduled for August, will be conducted in Salt Lake and Utah counties, Buffu briefed the council on the Marines' plans. While much of the training will occur at Camp Williams, the exercise is scheduled to culminate on Aug. 19 at the Unified Fire Authority’s training facility in Magna at 3950 S. 8000 West. Some training activities will occur on land owned by ATK.
Training coordinator Paul Weddle of the U.S. Special Operations Command said the operation will take place during “hours of darkness.” Buffu said the training “is classified as live firing, but essentially we’re shooting paintballs at each other. It stings a little bit, but it’s not lethal.”
Some team members will conduct reconnaissance, while other teams train with local reserve units. The groups will “combine for an action,” Buffu said. Marines from Camp Lejeune will come to Utah for the training.
The neighboring community may become aware of the Marines' presence when they are “moving in or about the community.”
The presence of “non-standard aircraft" such as Marine helicopters might also raise some questions in the surrounding communities, he said.
“None of my helicopters are black, I’ll tell you that,” Buffu said.
The military will reach out to the community well in advance of the exercise to ensure Utahns are informed about the training, he said. Local law enforcement will also be advised of the training.
The command also will enter into a memorandum of understanding with the Unified Fire Authority regarding use of its facility.
“The MOU lays out rules of the road,” Buffu said. “This is my way of being upfront.”
The exercise will be "low profile except for the aviation, but that’s only one evening, and that’s going to happen over an hour,” he said. “They’re going to come in, land, pick up the Marines and fly away. That’s the last of that most people will see of what’s going on.”
Buffu said training in an urban setting is especially valuable because 80 percent of the world's inhabitants live in urban settings, and training outside a military instillation helps Marines develop a different skill set as they interact with civilians.