Military shows its might in Franklin

Published 10:18 am Wednesday, January 21, 2009

FRANKLIN—If you imagined you were near the Gaza Strip last night, you weren’t too far off — Franklin was turned into a war zone. Marines were observed rolling through town in armored vehicles, gun shots rang out and combat aircraft hovered over the city.

Thankfully, it was just an exercise.

About 200 soldiers from the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) based at Camp Lejeune, N.C., conducted a training exercise at the shuttered Suburban Gardens housing project Tuesday night.

Capt. Clark Carpenter said while the unit operates its daily routine from its home base, portions of the 22nd MEU’s training involve the movement and staging of troops and equipment throughout the local region in urban training exercises.

“This particular exercise was mainly designed to help our helicopter pilots train and become proficient in landing on urban terrain,” Carpenter said. “This is important because Marines must be prepared for any actual conduct of raids in an urban setting.”

Carpenter said Franklin was chosen because the area has been used in training exercises in the past.

“We look for suitable areas on the East Coast to train that have a realistic urban setting,” he said.

Carpenter said all designated training areas get pre-approved through the Department of Defense. After that, Marines work with local police and city officials to ensure operations run smoothly and residents are kept at a safe distance from Marine activity.

Tuesday’s exercise was one of several the unit will execute throughout Virginia until Saturday in preparation for an upcoming deployment.

Although Carpenter did not reveal the 22nd MEU’s destination, he did open up about the unit’s recent deployment to Bangladesh.

“Our last assignment was a humanitarian effort where we assisted victims of a tropical cyclone,” he said.

Carpenter said the 22nd MEU was able to help victims by supplying fresh water, food and medical assistance in a disaster that killed nearly 3,000 and left more than 100,000 homeless.

Carpenter said while his unit is aware of the disturbance their exercises may cause for surrounding communities, he is appreciative of the citizens’ response.

“The majority of folks are generous and extremely supportive of us when we come in,” he said. “We can’t thank people enough for that.”