Marines, SEALs confirm training on Indian reservation
By J. Harry Jones
Friday, April 22, 2011 at 5:35 p.m.
An image from a three-minute marketing video for the Eagle Rock Training Center.
The marketing video describes a range of features at the training center, including a live-fire complex as shown in this computerized rendering.
Marine and Navy special-operations forces have trained at a privately run camp made unusual because of its location — on the remote Los Coyotes Indian Reservation
near Warner Springs
— and the Navy SEALs
in Coronado plan to use the site soon for a new survival-training course.
The facility, called the Eagle Rock Training Center, has at least two firing ranges, a helipad and shipping containers being turned into a mock Afghan village, according to two men at the site on April 6.
Meanwhile, a three-minute marketing video obtained by The San Diego Union-Tribune details what the facility might become — the country’s largest private training facility for the military and law enforcement, according to former Blackwater Worldwide
executive Brian Bonfiglio, who is featured in it.
In the video, which three people said they saw last year on a website that no longer exists, Bonfiglio touts the center’s benefits:
•The centralization of many types of drills — shooting firearms, rappelling from helicopters, breaking into mock Afghan and Iraqi homes.
•Diverse terrain on the 25,000-acre reservation, which includes mountains and valleys.
•Proximity to military bases in San Diego County
Nearly two weeks ago, Bonfiglio and Sean Roach described the site as a paintball course, film center and place for cultural and language-immersion training. Roach, an entrepreneur with businesses listed in Nevada and San Diego County, said he came up with the Eagle Rock concept about six months ago.
In 2009, though, an article in the magazine Military Training
Technology identified Bonfiglio as the center’s founder.
Bonfiglio, a former vice president for Blackwater (now Xe Services), provides the voice-over for the video as he explains a full-service program that includes a headquarters complex, a set of firing ranges and other combat and tactical training. The advertisement includes professionally produced footage, such as scenes of troops armed with semiautomatic weapons maneuvering around buildings and shooting at training targets.
“Eagle Rock Training Center is a private entity created to meet the substantial need on the West Coast ... for specialized training of military and law-enforcement personnel in the tactical and strategic operations for combat and counterterrorism,” Bonfiglio said in the video.
“Right now, there are no other training centers privately owned in the state of California that can match the sheer size and scope of 25,000 acres of training center that replicates Afghanistan and Iraq,” he added.
It’s unclear whether any potential clients or investors have seen the video, and whether the plans outlined in the footage have changed.
Bonfiglio has not responded to requests for comment. In emails, Roach said he didn’t know of any marketing video and that if one exists, it was produced before he became involved with the business.
In a statement, a Marine spokesman said special-operations forces have trained at Eagle Rock in the past year. He wouldn’t give other specifics, such as the type of training.
In a separate statement, the Naval Special Warfare Command said SEALs will practice survival tactics
at the facility in the near future. It did not provide a copy of its contract with the company.
Los Coyotes officials said the Eagle Rock project is private tribal business. Roach also declined to discuss ties between Eagle Rock and the tribe.
The Bureau of Indian Affairs
is supposed to review land leases between a tribe and a private enterprise. Robert Eben, superintendent for the Southern California Agency of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, said two weeks ago that he was unaware of the training center. Since then, he has not responded to phone calls seeking comment.
Residents who live near the reservation said they have noticed increased military activity during the past few months and worry about the effect it will have on their way of life.
Gwenda and Roland Hammerness, who live in Borrego Springs about 10 miles from the reservation, said they recently heard helicopters coming from that area. “I heard them in the middle of the night, sometimes as late as 2 a.m.” Gwen Hammerness said.
Kathryn Fletcher, president of the Los Tules Property Owners Association in Warner Springs located along the only road leading into the reservation, said she and other residents strongly oppose a training center for reasons including their opinion that there could be a fire danger.
Firefighting officials have long said that in extreme wind conditions, a blaze that starts on the reservation could sweep through Warner Springs and Palomar Mountain and burn to the coast.
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