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Associated Press Newswires

Shells Fall On Camp Lejeune During Training Exercise

October 20, 2001
Copyright © 2001 Associated Press Newswires. All Rights Reserved.

CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. (AP) - A naval warship fired shells onto Camp Lejeune for the first time in 20 years during a training exercise designed in part to determine the impact on local residents.

With Camp Lejeune being mentioned as a possible alternative to the military bombing range in Vieques , Puerto Rico , many residents near the base raised concerns about noise levels from live-fire training.

But of the more than 50 military and local officials onhand for the hour-long offshore shelling/onshore sighting training excursus on Friday, most agreed the impact on residents would be minimal.

"I haven't seen anything here to really alarm me," said Onslow County Board of Commissioners Chairman Delma Collins, who added that he is waiting to see the Marine Corps' next impact study.

Observers watched the exercise from a three-story observation tower a mile from two targets as Marines above them radioed coordinates to the guided missile cruiser USS Yorktown about 6 miles offshore.

The presentation came in three stages.

About 12 concrete rounds were fired in the first stage, followed by 12 live rounds from the Yorktown. The final stage included 12 live howitzer rounds - used most often during exercises at the base - fired from 5 miles away to determine if there was any noise difference from the live rounds.

Most in attendance said the live shells weren't any louder than the howitzer rounds, and some of the nearby residents agreed.

"We were wondering if we would (hear anything)," said Judy Goins, who lives in nearby Hubert. "There wasn't any shaking here."

Sighting exercises would run about two days a month starting next spring, pending results of Friday's test and completion of a study on the long-term effects to the area, according to base commander Maj. Gen. David Mize.

The live-fire training comes just three months after Camp Lejeune was mentioned as a possible alternative to the Vieques site.

Onslow County commissioners drafted a resolution in August asking Camp Lejeune be removed as an alternative to Vieques , but Mize said the idea for Friday's exercises started in November.

"Our timing couldn't have been worse, and we are always going to be accused of that," Mize said.

Marine officials took extra measures to keep the exercise safe, including the closings of N.C. 172 and the Intracoastal Waterway.

The naval targets were about 200 meters apart toward the middle of the boot-shaped G-10 target area, which is anywhere from 2 to 3 kilometers wide and 3 to 4 kilometers long, Col. Christopher Wilk said.

"So you can see that even our farthest shot was well within the target area," Wilk said of a blast a few hundred yards south of the targets.


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