Marines call off training exercise in Phoenix : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Marines call off training exercise Homeless advocates protest, Phoenix acts  Marine exercise targeted (3/24)

By Pat Kossan The Arizona Republic March 24, 2000

On one side were the Marines, poised to drop from helicopters Thursday into downtown Phoenix in a training exercise.

On the other side were advocates for the homeless, worried about the psychological effects on homeless veterans.

In the end, the Marines blinked.

They and Phoenix officials surrendered to the advocates' all-day lobbying effort and canceled the training exercise, planned for the area around Ninth Avenue and Madison Street, which is filled with soup kitchens and shelters.

Advocates for the homeless feared that the sights and sounds of the exercise could have triggered trauma symptoms in veterans who live on the streets near the target area.

The advocates were surprised by their victory.

"They (city officials) haven't always moved that quickly -- or at all," said Jan Gray, whose jobs-service program sits in the targeted neighborhood. "We're very impressed that they listened."

She was among members of the Phoenix Coalition to End Homelessness who gathered Thursday morning to step up their lobbying efforts.

Police Chief Harold Hurtt and federal officials canceled the exercise after learning about the potential problems, City Manager Frank Fairbanks said, adding, "I don't think anyone thought through the initial impact."

The Marines plan to return to Phoenix for training, he said, but will work with officials to choose a more suitable site.

Members of the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, based in Camp Pendleton, Calif., have been in the Valley all week, training to rescue hostages, evacuate civilians and deliver humanitarian aid. They leave for home today.

-- Martin Thompson (, March 24, 2000

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