PRESIDIO OF MONTEREY, Calif. (Jan. 31, 2022) – Whether it’s midnight with hardly a soul in sight, or 7:30 a.m. with hundreds arriving for work, Presidio of Monterey security officers must always stay sharp and alert.
“You need to stay on your guard at all times,” said Department of the Army Security Officer Troy Shaver, a veteran of the Air Force security police and a member of the PoM guard force for 16 months. “You just never know. You never know what car is going to pop up on you.”
At least one gate is always open at PoM, and the security officers are the critical first line of defense for the thousands of military personnel who live and work within the perimeter of the 392-acre installation. Not only do the security officers maintain safety by keeping incidents from happening, they are also trained to assist with emergencies, such as an active shooter or a collapsed building.
Most know the security officers as the people who check identification cards at the gates—and that is a large part of the job—but there is much more that they do, said Capt. Ed Wilkins, who has been with the team since it started when the Army established security gates at PoM after 9/11. He is now the force’s training captain.
For example, members of the security force search vehicles, constantly observe vehicles, pedestrians and their surroundings, and back up the police with assistance when necessary, Wilkins said. Security officers do not make arrests, but they detain until police arrive.
Members of the force said they have a high level of camaraderie and enjoy the customer-service aspect to the job.
Lt. Jeremy Hughes, a member of the force for five years and a Soldier in the U.S. Army Reserve, said knowing he is protecting the base is his number one reason for job satisfaction, but a close second is providing customer service.
Most members of the force are veterans, Hughes said, and this brings them together and helps them understand one another. “I can work with him and expect him to watch my back any time we get into anything,” he said, pointing to a colleague.
Likewise, Shaver said he enjoys not only the camaraderie within the force, but within the PoM military community as a whole.
Security Officer Dennis Inopiquez, a member of the force for more than 20 years, said he spent 14 years as an active-duty Soldier and retired through the U.S. Army Reserve, and particularly likes the interaction the job provides him with Soldiers.
“After I left the military, I wanted the camaraderie, and even though I’m not back in military uniform, I could get a little bit of that just seeing the other Soldiers,” Inopiquez said. “‘How are you feeling?’ ‘I got PT.’ ‘Good luck with that, I understand.’ Sometimes talking to them makes me feel good too.”
Wilkins said there are a few ways people in the PoM community can help the security officers maintain safety.
For example, it is important for people to know why they must pull down their Covid masks for identification checks, Wilkins said. “It’s an inconvenience to them, but it’s the only way to keep the base secure,” he said.
Guards must physically identify each person entering the installation, Wilkins said, and to do this, they match the whole face of the person with the photo on the identification card.
“If I handed someone my ID card, probably I could get 10 or 11 people who look close enough physically to me—just my eyes—to get onto the base,” Wilkins said.
It’s also important for everyone to understand that for safety reasons, the guards must still carefully check each identification card when there is a long line of vehicles entering the base, Wilkins said.
Pedestrians should keep in mind as well that they should not cross the line of traffic when entering the post, Wilkins said.
Also, while it is legal to transport small amounts of marijuana in California, marijuana remains illegal on federal property, Wilkins said.
Wilkins said one of the reasons he has stayed with the force for so long is because he enjoys teaching security officers the job and watching them exceed him in ability. “It’s seeing that, and watching someone else progress, and knowing that there’s very little that will get by us,” he said.
The security officers receive extensive training on weapons, defensive tactics, jurisdictional law, California law, military law, situational awareness and more, Wilkins said, and every day, at all hours, members of the force put that training to use to protect PoM.
“We get it done safely,” Wilkins said. “We get it done efficiently. We get it done proficiently. I’m proud of these guys.”