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TW & Company Inc. gate guards pose in front of the main gate at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jerilyn Quintanilla)
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Increased security at installation gates

Posted 7/20/2011   Updated 7/20/2011 Email story   Print story


by Master Sgt. Jeff Ward
355th Security Forces Squadron

7/20/2011 - DAVIS-MONTHAN AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. -- Over the last eight months, visitors to Davis-Monthan encountered increased security measures when attempting to sponsor visitor's through the installation's gates.

There are several reasons behind the added emphasis on who is authorized to visit the base that include more stringent guidance from the Department of Defense, but most importantly, the safety and security for the 22,000 people who live, work and play within the confines of the base each day.

The Installation Commander is responsible for the safety of those people, and also for the security of the weapon systems used to defend our Nation's borders and interests abroad.
The new measures being used to prevent questionable characters from entering the based are intended to mitigate harm to our facilities, aviation assets and most importantly our personnel authorized to reside, visit, or work on base.

If you live in Tucson, you are probably aware that we live 60 miles from our neighbors in Mexico. On the other side of the border, a drug war has been raging that resulted in more than 38 assassinations in the month of May.

As a nation, we've grown wiser in our intelligence community and understand the need for inter-agency coordination among Homeland Defense and military agencies to prevent similar violence in our own backyard. One of the key lessons learned from the attacks in September 2001was that better communication between our intelligence and law enforcement agencies might have prevented the attacks. Over the years, the 355th Security Forces Squadron diligently cultivated relationships with local and national agencies to gain access and use of vital data in criminal information and terrorist databases.

In an effort to improve security, the 355th Fighter Wing Commander directed 100 percent identification checks of all personnel requesting entry to Davis-Monthan. For those with the proper credentials, this increased security measure is transparent as they enter the base.
However, those lacking authority or requiring an escort must sign in at the visitor control center. Authorities at the VCC use customer provided data to validate visitors against information in law enforcement data systems. Depending on the time of day, day of week, and the events hosted on base, the guest entry validation may take more time than base residents are accustomed. The extra wait time was deemed worthy when 355th Fighter Wing Security Forces identified and prevented entry to 12 illegal immigrants who possessed fake Arizona driver licenses. Security forces and wing leaders knew the enhanced entry efforts would result in increased wait times for personnel gaining entry to the base however, the intent is to mitigate this inconvenience with improving the safety of the residents, employees and Airmen of the Desert Lightning Team.

Security forces and the civilian gate guards at the VCC and the Swan Search Area regularly conduct 100 percent identification and, for personnel without credentials, local computerized background checks. Immediately following implementation of the new vetting process, security forces prevented base entry to 23 individuals with violent felony histories, 20 drug traffickers and an additional 10 convicted of a sex-related crime. The immense response and documented entry delays made it apparent that the gate guards would need additional computer terminals installed to improve timeliness and still prevent entry to unauthorized visitors.

The 355th Fighter Wing issues barment letters to individuals whom are registered sex offenders, or are convicted for illegal possession of drugs or narcotics within the last five years, or those convicted of either drug trafficking, felony violence against a person, arson, robbery or burglary or indecent acts with a minor that is sexual in nature in the last 10 years. To date, thousands of agency checks were processed that prevented 12 registered sex offenders or persons convicted of a crime involving indecent acts with a minor or a felony that is sexual in nature from entering the base. Additionally 10 people convicted for possession of drugs or drug trafficking and 63 convicted felons were banned from the base.

The increased security measures being used on Davis-Monthan are key to the safety and security of base personnel and resources. Customers will experience delays while signing guests onto the base. Conducting the necessary background checks and completing the appropriate visitor pass documentation is time consuming. Here are some tips on avoiding a lengthy wait:

1. Plan ahead. If members are going to host an event on base with five or more participants, they should submit a special event letter request with the attendees' names, social security numbers, and dates of birth to the VCC 72 hours or more before your event.

2. Guests must be prepared to show a picture ID and social security information when processing visitor requests.

3. Members should know who they are sponsoring onto the installation. The intent is not to embarrass anyone, but if a warrant is displayed for any reason personnel are required by law to contact local law enforcement.

The primary goal is to provide a safe and secure environment for residents and employees of the Desert Lightning Team. The collective team efforts help each member to remain vigilant and improve the safety of the community. For more information, call the Pass and Badge section at (520) 228-3224 or email: 355SFSPASSID@dm.af.mil for assistance.

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