FORT SILL, Okla. (Jan. 24, 2019) -- Visitor access to Fort Sill will be less restrictive when the post implements a pilot Trusted Traveler Program Feb. 1.

The intent is to expedite access to the installation for Department of Defense card holders and authorized guests. The post will retain a high degree of security while increasing vehicle throughput, according to a memorandum issued by Maj. Gen. Wilson A. Shoffner, Fires Center of Excellence and Fort Sill commanding general.

The new policy will provide flexibility for "trusted travelers" to vouch for a single, non-commercial vehicle with no more than 14 passengers. It will be in effect seven days a week between the hours of 5 a.m. and 10 p.m. After 10 p.m. and before 5 a.m. there will be 100 percent ID checks at the gates.

SPONSORSHIP
Those who qualify to serve as sponsors for visitors include service members, their spouses, military dependents aged 16 and over, retired uniformed service members and their spouses, and DoD employees with a Common Access Card. Eligible ID card holders riding in the vehicle as a passenger can also sponsor visitors.

Those who cannot sponsor visitors include contractors whose DoD ID card has a green stripe and those who use other passes, such as installation passes or Department of Veterans Affairs passes, to get on post.

The trusted traveler's guests can go to any non-restricted area when accompanied by their sponsor. They cannot go into restricted areas, either with or without their sponsor, nor can they go to any location on post unescorted by their sponsor.

Trusted travelers cannot vouch for individuals with foreign passports or identification cards. These individuals must instead be cleared according to procedures set forth in Army Regulation 190-13, paragraph 8-2.

Trusted travelers are responsible for the actions of all occupants in their vehicle and for meeting all local security requirements for escort as established by Army regulations and requirements of the installation commander. In addition, trusted travelers are responsible for making sure the garrison commander has not barred their guests from the installation.

The installation commander, at his discretion, may suspend the Trusted Traveler Program based on local threat or may revoke individual trusted traveler privileges.

The program is not authorized for contractors, even those who have been issued a DoD ID; visitor card holders; volunteers; family care providers; tow truck drivers, or taxis/shuttles/Uber/Lyft drivers with a DoD ID card conducting those duties for commercial purposes.

The Trusted Traveler Program does not authorize vehicle occupants to enter a Mission Essential Vulnerable Area, a defense critical asset, a task critical asset, a limited area, or an exclusion area without first meeting the security requirements and procedures for those areas.

The Trusted Traveler Program will be suspended whenever the post has to go to Force Protection Condition Charlie or Delta for security reasons.

Procedures of the new Fort Sill program are governed and implemented locally and may not be recognized by other installations.

This is a pilot program and will be re-evaluated by the Fort Sill commander after six months.

POSITIVE RESPONSE
Fort Sill Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) officials expressed optimism about the change.

"I think it will help relieve the perception that the post is difficult to access," said Shane Dunlevy, community recreation officer for MWR. He pointed out that the installation was never closed under the access policy implemented in 2015.

Under the new gate policy, guests of the trusted traveler will not be required to have a DoD ID card, so that should reduce the perception that it's hard for folks to get on post, he noted.

"So, from a programming standpoint, that helps us, as far as being able to do a little bit better job of scheduling sports tournaments, (such as) a softball tournament or a basketball tournament or other events," Dunlevy said.

The new policy could provide an opportunity for MWR to get back into the Body vs. Earth triathlon or other, similar events, "or work with other entities to help us to put those events on and get folks on the installation and show off what we have here and what's available for folks to use on the installation," he said.

Dunlevy said the Trusted Traveler Program would play into or have an effect on the ability to get people out to concerts on Polo Field, but he thinks other factors may have to be considered.

Meanwhile, the MWR activities that depend on non-appropriated funds to keep them going will likely benefit from the program. These include the Fort Sill Golf Course, Twin Oaks Bowling Center, the Patriot Club, and Lake Elmer Thomas Recreation Area (LETRA).

"It definitely has the potential to help them out, as far as rounds played, participation, that type of stuff," Dunlevy said.

Kate Deyermond, business operations chief for MWR, is confident the new program will bring in more revenue for MWR.

"Yes, absolutely," she said. "If post access increases, more participants can access our facilities such as the Patriot Club, golf, and the bowling center. This would also give broader access for a larger population to utilize the recycling program."

More revenue "would allow us to continue our programs that Fort Sill Soldiers, families, retirees, and civilians use on the installation," she said. That money could be used "to renovate facilities as well as capitalize and do sustainment renovations on all of our MWR activities, so that we could provide additional services or be able to renovate and update our facilities when needed."

Giving greater access might not always generate more revenues -- MWR offers many services not intended to be money-makers -- but the Trusted Traveler Program gives a chance for more people to participate in those activities as well. Deyermond said that "gives us an opportunity to give back not only to Fort Sill but to the Fort Sill-Lawton community which supports us."

"We're just very excited about this opportunity to make travel to Fort Sill more seamless and to be able to utilize this technology. We're excited about the opportunities that that will bring for us to continue to support this community and the Soldiers and families that live and work here," Deyermond said.

The response from Army & Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) was more muted. Julie Mitchell, senior public relations manager for the AAFES Executive Group, supplied this cautionary note:

"Guidelines on who is authorized to use Exchange operations are prescribed by Army Regulation 215-8 / Air Force Instruction 34-211 (I) and the Armed Services Exchange Regulations, Department of Defense Instruction 1330.21. Active-duty service members, their families, and military retirees have full Exchange privileges.

"Travelers coming to Fort Sill with a Soldier or other authorized shopper would need to be authorized customers themselves to shop with us. However, anyone can dine in the food court or pick up grab-and-go fare from the Express."

As for whether increased revenues might lead to an expansion of services or new product lines, she said, "The Exchange monitors product and customer demand and makes adjustments accordingly."