Fort Jackson adding to its roster of gate guards
January 31, 2013
FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- Three armed men surrounded John DeMarco, a former Soldier who spent four years of his career stationed on Fort Jackson. The sun was shining, the weather was mild and none of the drivers passing by the Fort Jackson Directorate of Emergency Services building on Jackson Boulevard seemed to notice the scenario playing out behind the building.
"Are you thinking about doing something stupid?" DA Police Lt. James Rowland asked DeMarco.
"No, sir," he responded as the trio moved to circle him.
Rowland was instructing the men on how to approach a belligerent visitor to Fort Jackson, the kind of situation all three will have to occasionally deal with in their new jobs as gate guards. Their training that afternoon included the use of handcuffs, the use extended batons and unarmed self defense.
Fort Jackson is working to bolster its roster of guards, presently training three new guards for duty with a handful more expected to join their ranks in coming weeks.
"We went from 58 to 37 gate guards last year," said Lt. Col. Raymond Simons, director of emergency services for Fort Jackson. "At that time, we had contract security guards as well as Department of the Army security guards. But, when we lost that contract, we lost our contract security guards."
Since then, Fort Jackson has been able to replace a fraction of the lost job slots, with only 23 of the authorized 37 guards on duty by the end of 2012, said Fernando Vasquez, chief of physical security for the post.
"The new guards have to have some kind of guard or law enforcement experience," Vasquez said. "For the most part, we're looking for veterans, but they'll all have to undergo three weeks of training as mandated by Army regulations."
Four more gate guards are in the process of being hired, he said.
"People are going to expect the same level of service with 37 guards that they were getting with 59 guards," Vasquez said.
Vasquez does not anticipate the addition of these guards to have a significant impact on traffic flow at the gates, he said.
"Right now, we're operating with less than 37 guards, but I think they're doing a great job," Simons said. "If there are any more changes, they won't be transparent to the public. If we extend hours, though, it will be based on decisions made by the garrison commander and commanding general."
By Feb. 17, the post should have 33 guards trained and working the gates, Vasquez said.