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Students attending the Special Forces Qualification Course at Fort Bragg, N.C., will conduct their two-week "Robin Sage" training exercise across a 15-county area in central North Carolina beginning Tuesday.
The exercise is conducted in or near Alamance, Anson, Cabarrus, Chatham, Davidson, Guilford, Hoke, Montgomery, Moore, Randolph, Richmond, Rowan, Scotland, Stanly and Union counties, according to a statement from the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School at Fort Bragg.
The base announces the activity in advance to alert the public and avoid the potential risks of conducting realistic training within a community using civilian volunteers as role-players.
The Robin Sage exercise turned tragic on Feb. 7, 2002, when a Moore County deputy sheriff, unaware that the exercise was in progress, shot and killed 32-year-old 1st Lt. Tallas Tomeny.
The Special Forces candidate was in disguise and believed the deputy sheriff was role-playing as part of the exercise. When he resisted arrest, the deputy fatally shot him and wounded another soldier. (An appeals court has ruled that the deputy can be sued for using excessive force, The Associated Press recently reported.)
Since the killing, the Army has routinely publicized that Robin Sage is scheduled to take place.
Until that time, the Army did not announce the exercise, believing that area residents were aware of the training, which had been taking place for more than 40 years.
The exercise set to begin Tuesday and conclude Dec. 20, has been coordinated with public safety officials throughout the exercise area, the press release said.
"Residents may hear blank gunfire and see occasional flares, neither of which poses any risk to persons or property," the release said, urging residents who encounter a problem to "contact local law enforcement officials, who will immediately contact exercise control officials."
Robin Sage is the final training exercise before graduation and assignment to one of the operational Special Forces groups.
The students conduct the unconventional warfare training scenario in the fictional country of Pineland and some 200 troops support the exercise from units across the military, including Fort Bragg.
According to the press release, the following safety measures have been implemented:
• Formal written notification was given to the chiefs of the law enforcement agencies in the affected counties, with a follow-up visit from a unit representative.
• All civilian and nonstudent military participants were briefed on procedures to follow if there is contact with law enforcement officials.
• People role-playing as Pineland law enforcement officers will wear distinctive hats and armbands.
• Students have been instructed and tested on the exercise's rules of engagement, including procedures to follow if there is contact with law enforcement personnel during the exercise.
• Students will only wear civilian clothes if the tactical situation warrants, as determined by the instructors and will wear a distinctive armband.
During hunting season, the cadre takes additional measures to ensure the visibility and safety of all participants.
Questions concerning the exercise should be referred to Maj. Sonny Leggett at JFKSWCS at (910) 396-8390.