By Sara E. Martin, Army Flier Staff WriterSeptember 19, 2013
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (September 19, 2013) -- People coming onto post the last couple of months may have been aware of the many changing faces that greet them at the gates, but Fort Rucker's first line of defense has not waned as Soldiers of the 1-58th Airfield Operations Battalion have stepped up to the duty of guarding the installation.
Because of sequestration, the rules of furlough and a handful of other considerations, the Fort Rucker Provost Marshal Office accepted a helping hand from Soldiers whose usual mission deals with aircraft, not automobiles.
"We had to reduce the cost of overtime… and we have a shortage in our guard force," said Lt. Col. Madeline Bondy, provost marshal and director of public safety on Fort Rucker.
The provost marshal's office could not simply put more military police officers on the gate because the manpower didn't exist if day-to-day operations and security were to continue.
"We had to continue operations without degrading the safety, security and services that we provide to the installation," she said.
The installation had to find a way to increase forces to be able to keep operations at the five main gates without breaking any rules and maintaining cost, and the opportunity arose when a mission was cancelled.
"So we found ourselves available for the job when it was known that augmentee Soldiers were needed for security," said Master Sgt. Ed Appleberry, Air Traffic Control company first sergeant and 1-58th ATC chief for the AOB.
"Col. Michael L. Shenk, (164th Theater Airfield Operations Group commander,) and Lt. Col. Daniel Y. Morris, (1-58th AOB commander), really came forward to assist. They saw the need for assistance in their community and they wanted to help," said Bondy.
Because of the rules of the furlough, the Directorate of Public Safety could not bring in new or extra guards, and with the mission requirement to protect the community and to ensure that access is limited, DPS gladly accepted the help.
"It was very fortuitous that the manpower became available," she said. "They help reduce so many costs to people and the mission. The guard shortage doesn't just affect DPS, it affects the installation and its ability to execute the mission in a timely manner without increasing costs.
The force multipliers' presence at the gate isn't just a matter of keeping gates open, said DPS officials, it is about being good stewards of Army money and Army time.
"Not only have they helped reduce a tremendous amount of overtime, they improve the morale of our Soldiers and our guards from working so many days," said Master Sgt. Pedro San Miguel, provost sergeant. "Because of them we were able to open the two other gates, which has reduced the cost of fuel trucks coming in who had to go all the way around to Enterprise or Ozark and it reduced the time it takes students to get bused in from the off-post airfields."
There are 73 Soldiers trained to work the gates, but 53 are taking on the primary weight of the task.
"The Soldiers took a week-long class recognizing all the identification cards and knowing what is an acceptable form of ID," said San Miguel. "They also learned about regulations and knowing our standard operating procedures of being a gate guard.
"All Soldiers are taught guard duty, but how to identify someone who may be suspicious and knowing what to do is more of what we focused on during training," he continued. "We teach them of what to be aware of so they can make a good decision on whether to allow someone access or not allow access."
The Soldiers themselves are also learning something new by getting this detailed training, something that they might do downrange at access control points.
"They are expanding and advancing their skills," added San Miguel and Appleberry agreed that the exposure to the community is good.
"It gets them out of their standard training and office administrative work and interacting with the community," said Appleberry. "The exposure is great experience for them because they don't get this type of interaction often."
Though the potential safety of the installation is in their hands, Soldiers working the gate said at first they were nervous, but now they feel confident in their training to keep everyone safe and everything secure.
"We are going to do whatever it takes to complete the proper security measures to do what is right," said Spc. Marquiz Thompson.
The Soldiers agreed that learning other duties is always helpful for their careers, but that they felt special because they were trusted with the security of the installation.
"I am happy to help out and give my support where it is needed," said Sgt. Spencer Mullen. "It is a good opportunity for young Soldiers to have an idea of what goes on at the gates and the responsibility that comes with that."
The Soldiers will continue to serve on the gates until the tasking requirements have been met.