The city and the Marines announced Friday that about two-dozen leathernecks would attempt to infiltrate Boise during practice intelligence-gathering missions sometime between May 6 and 10.
Although the Marines routinely practice their craft in mock urban settings on military bases, some skills can only be honed in a genuine city.
"What happens in these urban training facilities is we don't have dogs; we don't have garbage trucks driving down the street and we don't have the rhythms that you would see in your day-to-day life," Maj. Chandler Hirsch told a news conference.
The scenario of the exercise conducted by the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory calls for 24 reconnaissance-team members to fly to a National Guard training facility outside Boise in late April. The Marines will then attempt to slip into the city, spy on specific targets and then get out of town unnoticed; other Marines will act as enemy sentries guarding the target buildings.
Hirsch said the Marines would be wearing military-style clothing and would not be carrying loaded weapons. They will also not go on to private property. The goal is for the Marines to carry out their missions without being noticed by Boise's 186,000 citizens.
A Marine will be assigned to the Ada County 911 center to monitor any calls from suspicious residents, and a Boise police officer will serve as an escort for each team in the event a civilian who didn't get the word attempts to intervene.
Such exercises by the military are not unusual. A similar larger-scale exercise last month in North Little Rock, Arkansas frightened some residents who came upon armed troops skulking around their neighborhoods.
An Army Special Forces soldier was shot to death and another was wounded Feb. 23 during such a surreptitious exercise when they jumped a Bragg County, North Carolina deputy sheriff whom they thought was a role-playing actor in an exercise.
Despite the chance of running into a citizen with a shotgun or a snarling 100-pound Rottweiler, urban exercises are seen as an important training tool, particularly as the U.S. military finds itself increasingly involved in chasing guerilla forces such as al Qaida.
"We are looking at the urban environment because we know no military can beat the U.S. military in an open battle space," said Jenny Holbert, spokeswoman for the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory. "We proved that in Desert Storm, but now there is an increased likelihood our enemies will fight us in foreign cities. Cities are complex, difficult environments where our techniques may not be as effective."
(Reported by Hil Anderson, Los Angeles)