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President's Marine One helicopters land at The Citadel in Charleston for training exercise

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A training exercise in support of the VH-92A presidential replacement helicopter takes place on Summerall Field at The Citadel in Charleston on March 23, 2021. The Citadel/Provided

Downtown Charleston residents were caught off guard March 24 when two White House helicopters typically used to transport the president and vice president landed at The Citadel. 

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris were not on board, but the military was doing a training exercise to test out the Sikorsky/Lockheed Martin VH-92A, used as Marine One or Marine Two, as well as the MV-22B Osprey.

Citadel spokesman Zach Watson said the helicopters landed at Summerall Field, the yard in the middle of campus, and cadets were allowed to tour the inside of the helicopters.

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A test event in support of the VH-92A presidential replacement helicopter takes place on Summerall Field at The Citadel in Charleston on March 24, 2021. The Citadel/Provided

The aircraft landed for a brief training exercise at noon on March 23 and arrived for a longer landing at noon on March 24. 

Capt. Andrew Wood, a spokesman for the Navy, said the helicopters were there to "conduct operational testing of the presidential replacement helicopter."

At least two helicopters used as Marine One and Marine Two and three Ospreys were used for the training mission.

When a helicopter is carrying the president it is given the call sign "Marine One." When it is transporting the vice president, it is given the call sign "Marine Two."

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Wood said the helicopters took off from Joint Base Charleston and then landed at Summerall Field.

Few details were provided by the military about the purpose of the training mission and the Navy said the exercise would be happening "throughout the week."

The appearance of the helicopters caused quite a stir in some Charleston neighborhoods. John McCollum, a Westside resident, said he couldn't believe how low the choppers were flying and caught a glimpse of them coming in for a landing. 

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A training exercise in support of the VH-92A presidential replacement helicopter takes place on Summerall Field at The Citadel in Charleston on March 23, 2021. The Citadel/Provided

"It's always monumental to see symbols of our nation up close and personal," McCollum said. "We get so much air traffic, the sound of freedom regularly buzzes Charleston. But it's always exciting to see those iconic vehicles."

Marine One and Marine Two are often the preferred alternative to motorcades because of the planning and road closures involved with travel. 

The Osprey is a tiltrotor military aircraft that was introduced into service in 2007 and is used as a transport and support helicopter by the Marines, Air Force and Navy. 

Reach Thomas Novelly at 843-937-5713. Follow him @TomNovelly on Twitter. 

Thomas Novelly is a political reporter based in Charleston. He also covers the military community and veterans throughout South Carolina. Previously, he wrote for the Courier Journal in Kentucky. He is a fan of Southern rock, bourbon and horse racing.

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