January 12, 2012
FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- Motorists who drive onto Fort Jackson are no longer required to have a vehicle decal. The major policy change became effective this year and is a result of a DoD recommendation issued last year.
Because of the change, designated visitor lanes at Gates 2 and 4 have been eliminated. All lanes can now be used by all vehicles entering the installation.
However, the change did not create an "open post," said Col. James Love, garrison commander, while addressing IMCOM employees in a town hall meeting Monday.
"We did not open the post up, just so we're all clear," Love said. "(But) if you had access to the installation before, there's no reason why you don't have access to it now."
Visitors who do not have a military ID card, need to present valid government issued identification and need to be able to state a valid purpose for their visit, said Lt. Col. Raymond Simons, director of emergency services. Simons defined a "valid purpose" as the use of Fort Jackson facilities or grounds. He said gate guards were instructed to ask visitors about their reasons for coming to Fort Jackson.
"People can expect to get challenged when they come onto the installation. It's just not going to be a free pass onto the installation," he said.
Simons also illustrated a possible scenario that would deny a person access to the post.
"An example of someone not being granted access would be, let's say if there was a traffic accident on I-77 and you're coming through Gate 2 and the guards are able to ascertain that you're not coming here to visit Fort Jackson. You're coming here to avoid the traffic jam," he said.
Fernando Vasquez, chief of physical security, said graduation visitors will still receive vehicle passes -- not because they are needed to gain access to the installation, but because they help security personnel provide optimum assistance.
"We're going to continue to issue passes along with a map to the visitors," Vasquez said. "That way, when we see a person (who appears) lost, if patrols see that pass on the dashboard we know automatically that's a visitor. We can identify them. We can assist them as necessary."
Although visitors can now use all gates to enter Fort Jackson, Simons strongly encouraged graduation visitors to use Gate 4 off Percival Road for the easiest access. The outbound lanes at Gate 4 will remain redirected for inbound traffic from 6 to 10 a.m., Wednesdays and Thursdays, to alleviate traffic congestion at the gates.
Gate guards have increased their use of hand-held scanners that allow them to cross-reference a person's identity against state and federal databases. Simons said that everyone entering Fort Jackson should be prepared to have his or her ID card scanned. The scanners show if an ID card is expired or suspended or if a person has an outstanding warrant.
Love said drivers can also expect more random vehicle inspections.
"We have to use more due diligence since we don't have the verification that we had beforehand with vehicle registration," Love said.
Simons said that people entering the installation need to remember that force protection is a priority.
"It seems like many people are more concerned about getting on the installation quickly and no one cares about the fact that there's still a threat out there," Simons said. "We still need to keep in mind that there's a threat out there, and these guards are out there doing their jobs."