Helicopter Training Could Continue Through Mid-Week in Mpls., St. Paul

Updated: 08/20/2014 7:13 AM
Created: 08/18/2014 9:11 PM
By: Steve Tellier

Authorities are releasing more information about the Department of Defense training exercise in the Twin Cities Monday night that had people taking to social media and calling KSTP about low-flying military helicopters.

Major Allen Hill, with the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, says the training is called “familiarization flights.” The exercise aims to put U.S. Army pilots into unfamiliar surroundings and forces them to acclimate quickly to those surroundings while flying at low altitudes and under cover of darkness.

Pilots were flying military helicopters on these “familiarization flights” in Minneapolis and St. Paul on Monday night. Hill said it’s routine training that is conducted in several cities across the country every year, according to Major Hill. He says the same training was conducted in the Twin Cities in 2012.

This is something that is planned months in advance, but the military does not warn residents in advance. Hill said they have given advanced warning in the past, but it only tends to attract more attention and crowds of people, which creates a public safety issue in and of itself.

Hill said while the training may alarm some residents, it’s only effective if the training is conducted exactly how it was conducted Monday night. Local police said the military makes every effort to being the training as early in the evening as possible to minimize disruptions for nearby residents -- but due to the nature of the training, it has to be conducted at night.

The training is expected to wrap up on Aug. 21. It involves only special operations forces -- not local police.

The Minneapolis Police Department released a statement, saying, "We apologize for any alarm or inconvenience the training may cause. Due to safety and security concerns, the exact location of the exercises cannot be released. The MPD is currently working with the DOD to determine what information may be broadcast in the areas where residents are most affected. General locations may be broadcast on our twitter account, @MPD_PIO, whenever it is possible and appropriate."

The St. Paul Police Department also released a statement, saying, "Security concerns do not allow for exact times and locations of the training to be released as it continues in the coming days. While local law enforcement officers, including members of the Saint Paul Police Department, are not taking part in the night training, they are in place to ensure public safety."

Photo courtesy of Shawn Reinke

Minneapolis/St. Paul

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