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Training facility reeks of Blackwater

North County Times (2008-10-05) Paul Jacobs

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Media Link: http://www.nctimes.com/articles/2008/10/04/opinion/jacobs/zac67c2df5dc3107f882574d6005fe0ea.txt

Training facility reeks of Blackwater



By Paul Jacobs - as published in print and online (www.nctimes.com) for The Californian 10/5/08

Old Blackwater keeps on rollin'. This column has nothing to do with the Doobie Brothers and everything to do with private security firms providing tactical training for police, military and government agencies.

On Jan. 29 of this year, the Riverside County Board of Supervisors approved a training facility in the coincidentally named area of Homeland for the Procinctu Group. It is eerily similar to a project Blackwater had planned in the San Diego community of Potrero, but abandoned a month after Procinctu gained approval. "Procinctu" is a Greek word that translates to "prepared or ready for battle."

Plans for the 194-acre training center include two dormitories, six indoor firing ranges (some simulated), three indoor rifle ranges, 10 uninhabited training structures and mock streets to simulate a town, a tactical training driving test track and a skid pad. The area is zoned "residential agricultural." Nearby properties are populated with families and livestock.

The Romoland School District expressed concern that an existing K-8 school was 4,224 feet from the Procinctu project and only 1,160 feet from where a second K-8 campus was planned. That campus now likely will be relocated because of encroachment of a required 1,500-foot buffer zone. Errant projectiles don't know about buffer zones, however, and there is no requirement for a solid wall around the training compound.

Outdoor shooting is planned to occur less than once every two months, with staff members posted at the corners of the property intersecting with Briggs Road to explain the reason for the gunfire to any concerned passers-by.

Procinctu president John Choate has claimed his firm had no ties to Blackwater, but it has been reported that company resumes filed with the county state, "Instructor and Course Developer, Blackwater USA."

I certainly don't dispute the need for national and civil defense, but I am uncomfortable with the privatization of military operations. Furthermore, the Ben Clark Public Safety Training Center is located just up Interstate 215 freeway on March Air Reserve Base and has been providing training for law enforcement officers and firefighters for years.

It makes no sense to have a private training center compete with the established Ben Clark facility. A former military base is a more appropriate location for gunfire and tactical exercises than an area zoned for residential use. Apparently, county supervisors are willing to risk public safety for the sake of a private venture in national security.

These kinds of operations belong in restricted areas such as March Air Reserve Base and the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms ---- far from population centers and schools. This violent change of land use is an assault on the greater community of Homeland.

A huge disservice has been done to people who have bought property to house homes and horses in the tranquility of an area zoned for low-impact residential and agricultural use. Now, those residents and livestock will be exposed to the sound of high-impact automatic weapons fire and other armaments.

Paradoxically, a paramilitary training camp in the region makes me feel less secure. It's like a brother of Blackwater right in our own backyard.

Paul Jacobs is a regular columnist for The Californian. E-mail him at TemeculaPaul@aol.com.
Topic revision: r2 - 2016-05-16, UnknownUser
 

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