Carter among areas involved in premiere Special Forces training event

Published 3:43 pm Thursday, January 18, 2024

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By Buzz Trexler
Star Correspondent
Carter County residents be warned: Guerrilla freedom fighters with the “Pineland” resistance movement and opposition forces will be descending upon the county and doing battle between Friday, Jan. 19, and Thursday, Feb. 1.

But residents need not worry if they hear gunshots and see flares illuminating the night: It’s all part of the Robin Sage training exercise conducted by the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School, based out of Fort Liberty, N.C.

Robin Sage is a two-week exercise that is the final test in the students’ Special Forces Qualification Course training. Graduating students will move on to their first assignments in the Army’s Special Forces community. It’s considered to be the U.S. military’s premiere unconventional warfare exercise, during which candidates are placed in an environment simulating political instability and armed conflict. Soldiers are evaluated as they analyze and solve “real world” problems.

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As part of the exercise, local law enforcement agencies receive formal notification ahead of the event and there is a follow-up visit from a unit representative.

“The U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School Special Forces Robin Sage Exercise have been taking place in the area for years without any incident to raise any concerns,” said Elizabethton Police Chief Jason Shaw. “They typically inform us of when they are training in the event any questions might arise.”

For the sake of the exercise, the notional country of “Pineland” includes Avery, Alamance, Anson, Bladen, Brunswick, Cabarrus, Chatham, Columbus, Cumberland, Davidson, Duplin, Guilford, Harnett, Hoke, Lee, Montgomery, Moore, Randolph, Richmond, Robeson, Rowan, Sampson, Scotland, Stanly, Union, and Wake counties in North Carolina, the South Carolina counties of Chesterfield, Dillon and Marlboro, and Carter County.

Military service members from Fort Liberty and civilian support personnel have parts, but there are also community volunteers. The military service members act as realistic opposing forces and guerrilla freedom fighters, also known as “Pineland’s” resistance movement.

Civilian and non-student military participants are briefed on procedures to follow if there is contact with local law enforcement; students only wear civilian attire if the situation warrants, and a distinctive orange or brown armband is worn; and training areas and vehicles are clearly labeled.

“All Robin Sage movements and events have been coordinated with public safety officials throughout and within the towns and counties hosting the training,” according to a release. “Residents may hear blank gunfire and see occasional flares. Controls are in place to ensure there is no risk to persons or property. Residents with concerns should contact local law enforcement officials, who will immediately contact exercise control officials.