Downtown Los Angeles might look like a scene out of the video game "Call of Duty" next week, but military officials say do not be alarmed. It's training.
Military helicopters will be buzzing over the downtown skyline. Marines and sailors from Camp Pendleton armed with chalk-firing nonlethal rifles will converge at undisclosed locations in Los Angeles -- all in an effort to get realistic urban training.
Marine officials will not disclose exactly when the training will occur in Los Angeles, hoping to dissuade potential spectators. But they don't want people to panic. Local police have been briefed.
“The last thing we want is for people to see Marines in Ospreys and think that World War III has begun,” said Capt. Brian Block, spokesman for the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit.
To prepare the unit for its 7-month-long deployment to the western Pacific and Middle East next spring, Marines and sailors are training Friday and through Dec. 16 at locations throughout California, Nevada and Arizona -- and soon the streets of L.A. for urban military operations.
The 15th MEU will deploy aboard three San Diego-based ships of the Essex Amphibious Ready Group. The Marines' mission will be to conduct training with allies throughout the region although they are prepared to deploy to Iraq if ordered by President Obama.
Since 1985, Marines have done pre-deployment training in various urban locales, including Los Angeles, Atlanta, Memphis, New York, San Francisco, and Phoenix.
In Los Angeles, Marines will be training on how to assault a building to either rescue innocents and/or eliminate enemies. The Los Angeles Police Department, building owners and various state and federal officials have been notified.
"We are trying to keep our footprint as minimal as possible," Block said. "We will do everything as safely as we can."
The unit provides rapid-response force operations from the sea, land and air. "We need to prepare for anything that can happen," he said.
The Los Angeles training is early in the pre-deployment training, Block said.
"Realistic urban training allows the Marines and sailors of the 15th MEU to exercise vital skills to better prepare them for what they may face while forward deployed,” Col. Vance L. Cryer, the 15th MEU’s commanding officer, said in a statement.
“Bringing together the entire Marine Air-Ground Task Force in an exercise such as this one allows us quality, realistic training that is essential for unit readiness."