Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Marines out of Camp Lejeune plan human intelligence exercise along the coast

Ch-53 Stallions land at Bogue Airfield as infantry units from the 2nd Marine Division turn away from the dust and high winds. (Port City Daily photo/Mark Darrough)
Ch-53 Stallions land at Bogue Airfield as infantry units from the 2nd Marine Division turn away from the dust and high winds. Exercise MAKO, unlike this exercise from 2019, will involve no firearms.(Port City Daily photo/Mark Darrough)

A battalion of Marines based out of Camp Lejeune will conduct an intelligence exercise in New Hanover County starting March 15. 

The 2nd Intelligence Battalion — which participated in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom — notified the sheriff’s office that “Counterintelligence/Human Intelligence Company” training will be conducted in and around New Hanover County. 

“The Marines will be in civilian attire and operating Government procured rental vehicles,” according to the document sent from Camp Lejeune to the NCSO. “No firearms (real or simulated), ammunition, or pyrotechnics will be used during this training.”

Details about operational conduct are unclear. First Lieutenant Grace Jenkins, communication strategy and operations officer, said the agenda could not be released. She added the crux of the exercise involved “observing behaviors,” and simulating situations that Marines might see in a foreign country. 

According to an internal briefing document, the scope of the exercise extends from southern New Hanover County to Jacksonville and Emerald Isle. Its official purpose: to sustain and improve readiness in the execution of Counterintelligence /Human Intelligence (CI/HUMINT) operations in permissive and semi-permissive urban environments. 

Jenkins defined a semi-permissive urban environment as “one which necessitates an increased need for individual and collective force-protection, a function that trained and certified personnel are uniquely capable of providing.”

At least seven vehicles will be rented for the exercise, termed “MAKO,” and though not much information is known about what the 11-day maneuver will entail, plans include role-playing intelligence operations, with the introduction of a “scenario-based catalyst that initiates surveillance activity.”

A spokesperson for the NCSO directed Port City Daily to ask the United States Marine Corps for information about the exercise, and representatives of Wilmington Police and Wrightsville Beach Police did not respond to requests for comment. 

According to documents sent to New Hanover officials, obtained by Port City Daily, the exercise is a training run for a later event, Exercise Sparrow, to be held in Charlotte in early April. A press release for Exercise Sparrow stated: “The purpose of this exercise is to conduct realistic training focusing on mission essential tasks associated with military operations in urban and densely populated environments.”

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