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This August, it will be Zero Dark Magna

Published March 5, 2014 7:02 pm

Special forces plan nighttime exercise in August at fire department facility.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The U.S. Marine Corps is planning to conduct some war games this summer in Magna.

Under the cover of darkness on Aug. 13, Marine special operations forces will assault the Unified Fire Authority's training facility at about 4000 S. 8000 West, will secure or eliminate a threat identified in their scenario, and then will be whisked away in a couple of helicopters.

The whole thing will last just an hour or two, and Maj. Jeffrey Buffa, of the Marine Special Operations Command, said, "the likelihood [of Magna residents] seeing Marines is zero — if they do it right."

But people may be frightened by the sound of helicopters flying low overhead, so the military is getting word out early about the exercise.

Buffa and Paul Weddle, a Draper-based military contractor who helps "find places for soldiers and airmen to train off of military reservations," kicked off the public-information process Tuesday with the Salt Lake County Council.

They also wanted to find out if the county has any ordinances, such as those regulating noise, that the U.S. Special Operations Command will need to adjust to.

"We don't want people to be surprised or alarmed," Weddle said, noting that in the days before the nighttime raid, he and colleagues may go door-to-door to let nearby residents know what to expect. "We'll [also] be telling people 'please don't come out and help.' "

Since 80 percent of the world's population lives in urban areas, Buffa told the council it is imperative to train in realistic settings "we can't mimic on a military base. … Utah provides unique opportunities other locations in the country just don't have."

Weddle's written summary of the exercise said it will take place Aug. 9-20, with much of the advance work being done at Camp Williams on the Salt Lake/Utah county border.

A five- to 10-man advance party will do reconnaissance on the fire department's site and the "opposition forces" there. The scouts' observations will be passed back to the special-operations forces, who will be a combination of Marines and local reservists.

On the night of Aug. 13, they will swoop in, complete their mission and leave. There will be no explosives or live fire, Buffa said, but the teams will use plastic bullets filled with colored soap, like those used in paintball.

"[They] wash off easily, sting like the dickens and will cause no harm to the hardened surfaces of rubble piles, buses or shipping containers," Weddle said, adding that military officials will meet with the fire department Wednesday to talk about the possible use of simulated grenades.

County Council members had no objections to the proposal, with Republican Steve DeBry saying, "Thank you for what you do to protect us."

Added Council Chairman Michael Jensen, who also is the Unified Fire Department chief: "We're happy to have them and look forward to doing the exercise."

mikeg@sltrib.com

Twitter: @sltribmikeg