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Unconventional warfare training being staged in 21 North Carolina counties, Army says

Special warfare exercises kept under the radar in North Carolina

Known as Robin Sage training, the unconventional warfare exercises are like live-action role playing in the extreme, with hostile engagement between Special Forces students, volunteer civilians and soldiers out of Fort Bragg. It begins Aug. 30, 2019.
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Known as Robin Sage training, the unconventional warfare exercises are like live-action role playing in the extreme, with hostile engagement between Special Forces students, volunteer civilians and soldiers out of Fort Bragg. It begins Aug. 30, 2019.

A series of Special Forces military training exercises -- including gunfire with blanks -- is being staged across 21 North Carolina counties starting Aug. 30, and the Army is telling the public not to be alarmed at the suspicious-looking activity.

Known as Robin Sage training, the unconventional warfare exercises can be likened to live-action role playing in the extreme, with hostile engagement playing out between Special Forces students, volunteer civilians and soldiers out of Fort Bragg. It continues through Sept. 12, said a press release.

Heavily populated counties like Wake, Cumberland and Union counties are among training sites, according to the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center at Fort Bragg.

The students will match wits with more seasoned soldiers, who will “act as realistic opposing forces and guerrilla freedom fighters,” officials said in a release.

The Army conducts 'Robin Sage' Special Forces exercises in North Carolina in 2018. 'Robin Sage' is the military’s unconventional warfare exercise and the final test of over a year’s worth of training for aspiring Special Forces soldiers.

Advance notice has become a critical part of the annual program, since one soldier was killed and another was wounded in 2002 by a Moore County deputy who mistook Robin Sage exercises for criminal activity.

A similar Fort Bragg military exercise in 1997 created panic in Charlotte, when uptown residents were terrified by the sounds of 100 commandos attacking a warehouse. The “urban warfare” assault incorporated helicopters and “simulated bombs and gunfire,” the Charlotte Observer reported.

The exercises starting next week will involve engagements against a fictitious country known as Pineland, officials said. Staging areas will be largely on private land in 10 of the 21 counties, but the others may feel some impact, officials said.

The 21 counties include Alamance, Anson, Cabarrus, Chatham, Cumberland, Davidson, Davie, Guilford, Harnett, Hoke, Lee, Montgomery, Moore, Randolph, Richmond, Robeson, Rowan, Scotland, Stanly, Union and Wake counties, officials said.

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US Army Special Forces Capt. Arthur Garfer (at right) sits as the leader of the guerrilla camp berates him for being late during the Robin Sage training exercise in the Uwharrie National Forest under the cover of darkness as they participate in the Robin Sage training exercise. The training exercise for Special Forces applicants is the largest of it’s kind in the world and puts the men in real life scenarios dealing with problem solving not just fighting. Chuck LIddy cliddy@newsobserver.com

Local law enforcement agencies and government officials have been alerted, a release said.

“Residents may hear blank gunfire and see occasional flares. Controls are in place to ensure there is no risk to persons or property,” officials said. “Residents with concerns should contact local law enforcement officials, who will immediately contact exercise control officials.”

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Unconventional warfare tactics call for the students to “wear civilian clothes,” but the public will be able to identify them by “a distinctive brown armband,” officials said. Vehicles will be labeled, too, along with training areas, a release noted.

“Robin Sage is the U.S. military’s premiere unconventional warfare exercise and the final test of over a year’s worth of training for aspiring Special Forces soldiers,” according to the press release.

“Candidates are placed in an environment of political instability characterized by armed conflict, forcing Soldiers to analyze and solve problems to meet the challenges of this ‘real-world’ training.”

Watch video of an overnight military assault training exercise on an old hotel in Raleigh which angered some residents in northeast Raleigh Thursday night March 28, 2019.

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