Marines training at SC park just 'normal campgoers'

By BRISTOW MARCHANT | The Herald (Rock Hill, S.C. / Tribune News Service) | Published: January 21, 2016

Anyone who spends a mid-February night camping out in Ebenezer Park might notice unusual activity around the boat ramps. Don’t worry; it’s just an amphibious operation of the U.S. Marine Corps.

An observer might not realize the forces are from the Marine Special Operations Command at Camp Lejeune – MARSOC in military lingo.

“Our MARSOC Marines will not be dressed in uniform, nor will they have any military equipment or weapons,” said Capt. Barry Morris with MARSOC’s public affairs office. “Essentially, our Marines will look like normal campgoers utilizing the lake at night.”

Morris said Ebenezer, a York County park on the shores of Lake Wylie, was selected as an ideal site for “realistic military training.”

It is a venue just close enough to the civilian world that it can replicate the kind of conditions Marines can expect during special operations deployments for the Corps’ Middle Eastern, African and Pacific commands, all served by MARSOC forces.

“This exercise is conducted in an environment that is controlled, yet unfamiliar to the Marines being trained,” Morris said. “This ensures our training is both safe and realistic.”

Assistant York County Manager David Harmon said the Marines approached the county in mid-January about using Ebenezer Park. Harmon said this is the first military operation of its kind for which York County had ever been approached.

The Marines will be infiltrating the park overnight on Feb. 18 and 19. Three teams of six soldiers each will “occupy the wood line” near the park’s boat ramp for two hours each during operation, awaiting an amphibious pickup, according to the access agreement approved by the York County Council on Tuesday.

“Our Marines will look like normal campgoers utilizing the lake at night.”

Capt. Barry Morris, spokesman for Marine Corps Special Operations Command

The agreement allows for the “temporary storage of vehicles and equipment” in the park, and the Marines likely will be using “small fishing boats, similar to a standard johnboat or something similar, to cross the lake,” Morris said.

Ebenezer Park closes to the public at dusk, but overnight camping is allowed at the 26-acre park off Mount Gallant Road.

“At this time of year, it’s typically not as populated,” Harmon said. “Plus, (any campers) would be in a different area of the park.”

If any campers sign up to use the park that night, Harmon said, the county will notify them of the training.

“This training will have minimal to no impact on any patrons who may be visiting the park,” he said, adding the Marine Corps is coordinating its use of the park with local officials, law enforcement officers and emergency responders.

Marines promise in the access agreement that “the boat ramp and surrounding area will be left in the condition it was occupied in initially,” with no debris or trash left behind.


©2016 The Herald (Rock Hill, S.C.)
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