Buoyed by some Hollywood hype, the Navy’s weeklong large-scale training exercise “Solid Curtain/Citadel Shield” generated a bit more excitement today than the annual security drill tends to muster around the Navy town of San Diego.
Naval security boats gave chase to a motorboat with gun-toting men racing through San Diego Bay that came dangerously close to the cruiser Princeton as it headed out of the bay. The suspected “terrorists” tried to scuttle their boat along a beach at North Island Naval Air Station in Coronado, but a fiery explosion wounded two men as two others raced for cover in nearby buildings. It would be a few hours before Navy security forces finally caught the gunmen at the air station.
Calm had returned by afternoon. But the realism of the exercises threw off morning walkers and commuters caught a little off guard by the explosions and crackle of gunfire courtesy of Strategic Operations. The San Diego-based tactical training contractor is run by Hollywood producer Stu Segall, and the company specializes in realistic training events that can often includes fiery blasts, real amputees and amplified sounds of battle.
“We had pyrotechnics. We had explosions. We had gunfire. We had corpses on the beach,” said Navy Region Southwest spokesman Brian O’Rourke. “It was great.”
Clear morning weather drew a sizeable contingent of news reporters, including just about all but one local TV news station. The Hollywood effects, which Strategic Operations routinely incorporates into military combat and medical training it provides troops through military contracts, this year breathed life into the training exercise’s scripted play, which often can be slow and dull. The sounds and sights provided news cameras with almost nonstop action and imagery, to their unexpected delight. “Usually during this training, the media is like, ‘um, can we go?’” O’Rourke said. “Today, it was like, ‘can we stay?’”
This year’s exercises, overseen by U.S. Fleet Forces Command and Navy Installations Command, are being played out at most naval installations throughout the Navy and continue through March 24. “The goal is to prepare our security forces to be ready for any potential threat,” Adm. John C. Harvey, Jr., Fleet Forces commander, said in a statement. “As we’ve seen with the tragic attacks in France, threats are constantly evolving and are often presented in places and circumstances where we feel safe. These exercises provide us the opportunity to train together with our joint and inter-agency partners to maintain a high level of readiness to respond to any potential threats right here at home.”