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Feb 19, 1999
The exercise by the Army Special Operations Command from Fort Bragg was the last in a series performed in the Corpus Christi area, Police Chief Pete Alvarez said.
"It was really a neat exercise, something we'll probably never see again
in Corpus Christi," Alvarez said. The soldiers' mission was to rescue an
ambassador being held hostage by enemy forces, Alvarez said. In the process,
they set up snipers outside the building whose mission was to kill guards,
allowing soldiers access. The sharp crack of gunfire seemed to signal the
beginning of the exercise. An instant later, several black helicopters
without lights landed and dropped off soldiers. The soldiers used grenades
and explosives to blow open doors, Alvarez said. A helicopter also landed
on the Mann Building. The soldiers had to take out more than 60 bad guys
- some real men, some plywood cutouts -in and around the courthouse
before extracting the ambassador from the jail cell. They reached the hostage
in about 10 minutes and finished the operation in about 25 minutes, he
The helicopter came back later in the exercise to pluck the men from
the top of the crane. Two of the choppers landed on the roof of the courthouse.
The others landed around the courthouse square. A large Blackhawk helicopter
then settled in just to the north of the courthouse. "The pilot of that
Blackhawk had more than 5,000 hours of flight time in that helicopters,"
said Neal, who had been briefed about the drill by Sam Joseph, an operations
leader from Fort Bragg. "I've never seen anything as precise as what that
guy was able to do under those conditions in the dark like that."
In Kingsville on Feb. 8, explosions and rifle fire led nearby residents,
and the attack caused a fire that gutted an abandoned police building and
blew windows out of another building nearby. Army officials have
said that 50 to 60 soldiers were involved with the two-week exercise. The
Army Special Operations Command in Fort Bragg had received permission from
the city for the exercises. The unit has encountered problems in other
cities where the times and locations of the operations were widely known,
Joseph has said. In one case, he said, 200 people crowded onto the roof
of an abandoned factory to watch the operation, threatening to collapse
the roof and slowing the unit's vehicles. Dusty Durrill, owner of the company
that owns the old courthouse, said he was approached by Army officials
about six months ago. Durrill said he didn't receive any compensation for
the exercise, but that Army officials agreed to pay for any damage.