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County to get "war" in July

More than 2,000 members of the Oregon National Guard, including a contingency from Great Britain, are planning to hold training exercises outside Prineville in July
The Oregon National Guard announced last week that Crook County has been chosen as the site of its annual training exercises next year.
   Over 2,000 National Guardsmen are expected to arrive in Prineville July 13-27 for the event, along with all their equipment and supplies. The Guard anticipates conducting exercises on Bureau of Land Management land located south of the Les Schwab Warehouses and north of Reservoir Road along the Millican Road. The BLM will conduct a complete environmental analysis for potential impacts to the area before giving final approval to the event.
   Crook County Judge Scott Cooper, who represented the county at a meeting called to discuss plans for the event, said a Guard spokesperson described the gathering as "the biggest military event in the Prineville area since World War II." Cooper said that the economic benefits of the gathering would be substantial to Prineville, estimating the potential impact in the millions of dollars.
   "The brigade expect to purchase food supplies locally," Cooper said. "They will need trash pick up, gray water disposal, porta-potties and motel rooms. Many of the 'top brass' will be staying in local motels. A large number of vehicles coming as part of the exercise are expected to need auto parts and tires during the course of the exercise. A significant amount of gasoline and aviation fuel will be needed, and the entire brigade will participate at various times in some form of local recreation. This is huge," Cooper said.
   According to the Guard's spokesman, the exercise will focus mainly on an effort by guardsmen to find and overwhelm an opposing force, labeled by the guard as "bad guy."
   Troops and equipment will use the military's most sophisticated equipment, include 14 Chinook helicopters which are expected to arrive and base at the Prineville airport. The exercise also will make use of high-tech, laser-guided training simulation equipment to pinpoint troop movement and calculate "casualties."
   As part of the exercise, guardsmen will be firing blank ammunition in the training area. For safety reasons, the area is expected to be closed to the public during the event. As part of its mission, the guard will work to restore the land after the mission concludes. Recovery efforts include obliterating disruption to the ground and picking up and removing spent shell casings and accumulated trash.
   "Many people don't know that the guard has an environmental ethic," said Major Dave Stuckey of the Brigade headquarters. "We employ trained professionals to make sure that the impact of Guard exercises and activities on the land and local communities are as minimal as possible."
   The exercise also is expected to involve a detachment of 125 soldiers from Great Britain who will be jointly participating in the training exercise with their American counterparts. The "Brits" also plan to remain in the area following the exercise to enjoy the tourist activities of central Oregon.
   Guard members make no secret of the fact that a big part of their mission, in addition to providing training, is to raise the visibility of the National Guard with the region's young people, aged 18-26. The Guard will engage in recruiting opportunities as part of its exercise.
   The Guard selected Prineville for its annual training because the high-desert, rocky terrain around the area resembles many of the "hot spots" in the world and also because of the nearby presence of armories in Bend and Redmond, Cooper reported. He added that city and county officials have been working together to try and bring an armory to Prineville and suggested that a positive experience for the Guard in Prineville might assist in that effort.
   Several public meetings with the Guard are expected to be held prior to the beginning of the exercise in order to give the local community an opportunity to understand how the event will be conducted and what it will mean for Prineville. Meanwhile, Cooper says he's delighted that the Guard has chosen Crook County.
   "The Guard has done a lot for us in the past. " Cooper told the advance team of the Guard who visited Prineville last Thursday. "You helped us through the Rainbow Gathering in 1996, and you were a huge help to local law enforcement during the 1998 flood. I'm delighted we can help you stay on top of your skills."
   Dates and location of the public meetings will be announced once they have been scheduled.