HANCOCK COUNTY, MS (WLBT) - Some of the most sophisticated military training done on earth, happens almost daily in the pearl river swamp of Hancock County, Mississippi on the Pearl River at the Stennis Space Center.
There is an 18 square mile area where nobody is allowed to live, which serves as a buffer zone.
Because of the buffer zone, live fire is permitted on the naval special warfare training facility.
It took Bert Case years of asking for permission to do a story there. It finally happened July seventh when Bert and chief photographer Jim Duncan were invited down.
Few people know about the place, located deep in the Pearl River Swamp of Hancock County.
This is where navy personnel learn to fight wars on rivers and streams. They also train warriors from friendly countries.
This is the only command in the U. S. Department of Defense specifically designed to teach river combat skills.
About 200 seals, who conduct special operations and do the toughest jobs assigned to the military, train here every year.
Special boat team 22 is commanded by Cmdr. Bob Lyonnais. He is a seal who has trained in all their facilities, but likes this one most.
"This is the best. In over 20 years of training, there is not a better training ground for navy special warfare, especially for the boat guys" said Commander Lyonnais.
"You have live fire and riverene maintenance, right here; everything I need. I can do between 70 and 80 per cent of all my unit level training, right here in southern Mississippi."
Some of the training is a simulated operation, where only blanks are fired. But, as the commander said, there is live fire here as well.
The smoke directs the warriors to stay in a certain area, and also provides cover for them to extract hostages or destroy enemy forces.
One of their favorite weapons is the gatlin gun, that fires 3,000 rounds per minute. They let Bert Case fire it.
They also let Bert Case drive one of the boats.
Commander Lyonnais explained his mission in Mississippi.
"I am one of 10 seals assigned to boat team 22, out of 300 people" said Lyonnais. "They shoot and train on the water and they do it better than anybody else in the United States. I will even say on the globe. We can get people on and off the beach, we can do special reconnaissance, and our forte is getting people on and off the beach, in a riverene boat."
The personnel being trained here use 32 foot boats. The boats have two 440 horsepower diesel engines that can run the boat about 42 knots, in as little as two feet of water.
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