Waterfront town targeted for military training
Officials leery of ‘Close Air Support Missions’
ORIENTAL – Military training Feb. 12 through Feb. 16 is likely to keep some Oriental residents awake, according to a brief overview of planned operations furnished by the Public Affairs office of nearby Cherry Point Marine Corps Air Station.
In a press release this week, Marine spokesman Mike Barton laid out a flurry of information, which describes a hectic schedule set to begin Friday, Feb. 9, continuing on a sporadic basis through the end of the month. heeded:
“U.S. Army helicopters will conduct aerial gunnery training at Cherry Point Bombing Target 11 on February 9 and 10, beginning at noon each day,” wrote Barton in an e-mail to numerous media outlets. “February 10 will run as late as 9 p.m.”
Of particular interest to Oriental officials is Barton’s reference to intense activity planned for the skies above town:
“A small contingent of Marine forward air controllers will operate in and around the town of Oriental on February 12-16. They will support simulated close air support missions as late as 10 p.m. above the town during this period – residents should expect to see both rotary and fixed-wing aircraft, possibly low, over the town. There will be an increase in military vehicular traffic in the vicinity of Marine Corps Outlying Landing Field Atlantic during this same period due to ground operations on the airfield in support of the training.”
Tuesday night during the regularly scheduled monthly meeting of the Oriental Board of Commissioners, town manager Diane Miller brief Mayor Sally Belangia and other elected officials. Miller explained that she has been in touch with Marine Corps officials, and she described them as being “cooperative.”
“We may have as many as 10 squadrons invading our area,” said Miller, later adding “this is a wide-ranging joint exercise with flying going on at 500 feet and below. We are very supportive of military training, but we are a different type of population” – a reference to the town’s elderly population.
Several board members urged Miller to do whatever may be necessary to alert residents.
Miller agreed, hinting that she would tell residents “We are not under siege, we aren’t engaged in a war, we are just helping out with military training.”
Barton, the communications officer for Cherry Point, also described other training exercises:
“U.S. Navy special boat teams will conduct navigation training in and around Cherry Point waterways February 12-March 1. They will also conduct surface direct live fire training at Marine Corps Bombing Targets 9 and 11 as late as midnight each night during this period,” wrote Barton.
Area residents who have questions about the military exercises may e-mail Michael.Barton@usmc.mil.