A press release from Deen's office announcing the program declared that "recent terror threats" had made clear that "homegrown terrorists are in our midst." It continued: "With the easy accessibility of the internet, it is quite possible that these local and international terrorists can form a national or multiple location attack on our nation at any given moment."
"The buck stops with Larry Deen," the sheriff, who didn't immediately respond to our interview request, told the Times. "I am the chief law enforcement officer in this parish, and it is incumbent upon me protect all of the people in it."
The press release added that Operation Exodus got its name in part "because of its Biblical relevance," explaining that "[i]n the book of Exodus, the Israelites were totally on their own, learning to be self-sufficient and handle everything alone, just as the plan provides."
In a video of the first training session, posted on the sheriff's office's website, the recruits -- almost all white and male, and many appearing to be past middle-age -- gamely practice their hand-to-hand combat techniques:
Doyle Dempsey, a sheriff's deputy, explains in the video that the training session is designed to "set up a prevention mode to implement during Operation Exodus." The idea, says Dempsey, is to "show an overwhelming show of force prior to any incident taking place."
The video also shows a sign, apparently posted at the training session, which reads: "Hard In Drill Easy In Battle. Somewhere Right Now Your Enemy Is Training So That When He Meets You He Defeats You."
Deen said that the program will cost just $4,500, in part because weapons, such as a .50-caliber machine gun mounted on what the sheriff's office calls "the war wagon," have previously been bought.
Deen added he'd been mulling such a plan since the 9/11 attacks -- but he denied to the Times that he was creating a militia. "We run from that word," he said. "We're just the opposite [of] that word."