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Military to use Burton as a training ground for a week
by Bryn Mickle
The Flint Journal
Wednesday May 13, 2009, 7:15 AM
BURTON, Michigan -- The black helicopter crowd's worst fears of a New World Order are coming true.
The military is invading Burton.
But it promises to only stay a week.
The U.S. Special Operations Command is using Burton as a training ground for military exercises.
Sometime over the next day or two, a military spokesman said residents may see low-flying helicopters buzzing overhead.
People may even catch a glimpse of special operations forces, but the goal is to keep the exercise as low key as possible.
"Chances are that most people won't see them," said Naval Lt. Nathan C. Potter, a spokesman for the exercises.
Citing safety and security concerns, the military is being mum on details about the exercises, including the size of the force being trained.
There's also no word on where exactly the operations will take place, although Potter said soldiers could be working in neighborhoods and industrial sites.
"It will be very sporadic," he said.
The goal is to prepare troops for unfamiliar urban areas.
Once they are finished in Burton, Potter said the soldiers will be ready to be deployed overseas.
The military approached Burton officials with the request to train there about three months ago, said Burton police Lt. Tom Osterholzer.
Although officials are being cautious about the details, Osterholzer said they opted to notify the public to allay any fears once people start seeing helicopters.
Burton and Flint police will provide traffic control for some of the exercises and 911 operators at the Flint and Genesee County dispatch centers have been alerted in case of panicked calls.
"It's an honor to help these guys," said Osterholzer.
Not everyone is as enthusiastic.
"It scares me," said Jennie Moench of Swartz Creek.
Moench questioned whether the military is getting ready for action in a new theater outside of Iraq and Pakistan and wonders why it chose Burton.
"Would you see this happening in a wealthy city?" said Moench, a member of the area Peace Triangle group that has protested the U.S. presence in Iraq for about seven years.
But Burton resident Leroy Cronkright believes the city is providing an important service to the military.
"Nowadays, almost everything (soldiers do) is cities and towns," said Cronkright, a Navy veteran who served in the 1960s.
Sonia Flagg said she would have been caught offguard by the sight of helicopters over her yard, but likes the idea.
"Somebody's got to do it, so why not Burton," said Flagg.
"Young kids will love watching the helicopters fly around and everything."
Potter said the military appreciates the local help and said such training exercises are critical to the ability of soldiers to operate overseas.
Similar operations have been run in other cities around the nation.
"We're not trying to cause a disturbance," said Potter.