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Military apologizes for surprise helicopter training

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At least we'll be prepared tonight, when those military helicopters return for another round of training in the skies over the Twin Cities metro area.

The presence of the helicopters took many people by surprise Monday night when they began buzzing around downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul, and flying over neighborhoods in between. The training began around dusk and continued until after midnight.

There was no advance notice to the public that the training was taking place. Many area residents were shaken and officials in both cities were upset about the lack of information.

A spokesman for the military special operations team apologized Tuesday for the inconvenience, MPR News reports.

Public Information Officer Maj. Allen Hill said local law enforcement agencies are usually the ones who inform the public shortly before the training begins; the military doesn't want too much attention in an effort to avoid having crowds gather to watch.

According to MPR, the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment out of Fort Campbell, Kentucky, is the unit in town for training. They're using around half a dozen Black Hawk helicopters, and will continue their training through Thursday.

The special ops exercises take place 10 to 12 times a year in cities all over the country, MPR News notes. The last time they were in the Twin Cities was in 2012.

St. Paul police issued a statement Tuesday saying there's only so much information that can be released about the training.

"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."

The department said it would also send out reminders to the public through its Twitter feed, @sppdpio.

Minneapolis police spokesman Scott Seroka said Minneapolis police were also involved in the activity.

"These are Department of Defense exercises that should not be shared with the general public and security is of the utmost concern," he said in a statement.

Some folks were still taking the military to task Tuesday, including St. Paul Pioneer Press columnist Joe Soucheray.

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