AIKEN — Savannah River Site is becoming a choice training venue for elite specialty teams within the U.S. military.
“They come in, they leave – most people don't even know they were here,” said Jack Butler, property assets manager for the 310-square-mile Cold War nuclear weapons site.
The military training program has been under development since 2007, but the site is just now in its second full year of sharing its unique facilities with special forces.
“We are tailoring these exercises to what we have here at SRS,” Butler said Tuesday during a presentation to an SRS Citizens Advisory Board committee.
Since January 2012, the site has played host for more than a dozen exercises involving Marine Corps Special Operations, the 20th Support Command Nuclear Disablement Team, the Army Special Operations Aviation training, National Guard and Army Light Infantry groups.
Because of the site’s secure borders and nuclear past, it has become particularly useful in training forces that might respond to radiological incidents or conduct covert activities against nuclear facilities on foreign soil.
“We'd like to become established as a center of excellence for radiological response capabilities for the military,” he said.
Although no live ammunition is used, the specialty forces have held exercises in rail yards and among the concrete remnants of the D-Area heavy water bubbling towers and a nearby powerhouse building.
“That area simulates a generic industrial complex, so it’s a great place for the military to train,” he said.
The visitors, he added, coordinate their exercises closely with U.S. Energy Department officials to make sure they do not interrupt the site’s existing activities, which come first.