Mark Lehmann was absent-mindedly walking down Jefferson Avenue yesterday when he found himself in the middle of a gunfight involving men dressed in camouflage crouched behind mounds of snow.
Stunned, the 41-year-old Toledoan stopped in the intersection of Jefferson and Ontario Street for a moment. His presence, however, seemed to go unnoticed by the 20 or so Marines who quickly jumped up and ran past him.
Like many unsuspecting residents, Mr. Lehmann found himself in the midst of a urban warfare training exercise going on throughout the weekend in downtown Toledo. While cars drove by and pedestrians stared, Reservists assigned to Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 24th Marines based in Perrysburg Township worked their way through the streets with their M-16A2 rifles ready, encountering staged hostile situations along the way.
"It shocked me," Mr. Lehmann admitted.
"It's kind of odd them being downtown. I would think they'd be in a rural area."
Training in woods and fields may have been relevant in the past, said Maj. Gregory Cramer. But as more and more military operations occur in urban settings, so is the training.
The exercises took place throughout the day and will continue today, Major Cramer said. The 130 Marines carried rifles that fired blanks. The exercises occurred north of Monroe Street, west of the Maumee River, south and west of Cherry Street, south of Woodruff Avenue, and east of Collingwood Boulevard.
In groups of about 20, the Marines set out with a specific route planned and a mission to accomplish.
When not on the streets, the Reservists were given classroom instruction on everything from weapons to first aid in 610 Monroe St. - a vacant building transformed into the battalion's training headquarters.
Lance Cpl. Ryan Brillhart, 22, of Toledo, was deployed to Kuwait and Iraq with his battalion for eight months in 2003. A carpenter, Corporal Brillhart said the weekend's training is essential to help prepare him for situations he may face if ever deployed again. Currently there are no deployment orders for the battalion.
"Every time we go out, we are responsible for each other, we are responsible for coming home, but most importantly we have to make sure that we get our mission done," he said.
Cpl. Bradley Baker, 23, of Maumee, said the reaction of residents on the streets ranged from shock to supportive. He said he also noticed the protesters who lined up across the street for a couple of hours yesterday morning.
Holding signs that said, "We love you, stay home," and "Bush, Cheney, & Rumsfeld lied, Our soldiers died," about 15 members of Veterans for Peace and the Northwest Ohio Peace Coalition spoke through a bullhorn to the Marines, asking them to make their own decisions about the war and telling them that they would be supported if they turned away from the military.
The groups plan to resume their protest today.
Trudy Bond, 52, who was arrested Friday night for coming too close to the training exercise, said the group was not protesting the troops but rather the war. A psychologist from Toledo, Ms. Bond said she was booked on charges of obstructing official business and disorderly conduct and has a court date tomorrow.
"We do support the troops completely," she said. "More than anything, we want them home and alive."
Corporal Bradley, who works as a security guard, said he believed the group has the right to protest and was not daunted by their presence.
"It's their right to freedom of assembly," he said. "If I didn't believe that, I wouldn't be doing this."
Contact Erica Blake at: email@example.com or 419-724-6076.