Bombs, choppers during military exercises startle residents
12:42 PM CST on Thursday, February 5, 2009
Katie Moore / Eyewitness News
NEW ORLEANS – Residents in and around New Orleans have been hearing the sounds of low-flying helicopters and what sounds like bomb blasts over the past few nights, but the sounds are part of a training exercise for some of America's elite military troops.
At one Lakefront home, Gigi Burk normally hears her son, 6-year-old Beau, practicing the piano, but last night she heard something much different at around 10 p.m.
“I said, oh my God! They're bombs. That's what I thought it was, somebody dropping bombs,” Burk said.
Burk said she panicked, not knowing why she was hearing what sounded like explosions and low-flying helicopters.
“We're a little skittish around here with things that have happened,” Burk said.
But according to military officials, it’s a training exercise that brought about 150 U.S. troops from the U.S. Special Operations Command to train in New Orleans for urban warfare.
“They are regularly engaged in combat operations,” said U.S. Special Operations Command staffer Kimberly Tiscione. “They are the best of the best we have to offer across all the branches of the military.”
Black Hawk and "Little Bird" helicopters are transporting troops to several locations around New Orleans, according to Tiscione.
“They're going to be flying near buildings, doing approaches on them,” Tiscione said. “You might see them landing on the roof tops or landing on the ground near them as well.”
“I heard a bunch of explosions starting at about 10 p.m. They were about ten seconds apart, and then they'd stop, and we thought it was over, but then they started again,” said Burk.
Tiscione said that the ground troops were performing “breeches at several different locations.
“So, they're moving through doorways or walls or that sort of thing. They're also doing weapons proficiency,” Tiscione said.
The forces are using simulated ammunitions, almost like paintball pellets, to conduct the training. And even though the noise may affect your neighborhood, the night-time training is only supposed to last from sundown to 11 p.m., according to Tiscione.
“They are the best of the best because they get these kind of training events,” she said.
Burk said she wishes the training had been better publicized before-hand to avoid a scare Tuesday night.
"People were talking about it everywhere today," Burk said.
The NOPD did put a press release out about the training, and WWL-TV aired a story about it; however, that was a week ago.
Since U.S. Special Operations Command hasn't done a similar training here since 2000, it has caught many people by surprise.
The training will go on every night through the end of this week.