The Irony Of Post-9/11 Security – The more the government adds, the less secure our military is
Last Saturday I was the keynote speaker at the Midwest Republican Leadership Conference in Kansas City, Mo. It was a nice gathering, and the best part was that my young nephew, Capt. Herman Bernard West II, and his family, wife Serena and children Jordan Rose and Ethan Bernard, attended.Bernie, as we affectionately call him, recently changed stations from Germany to Fort Leavenworth, Kan., to join next year’s class of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College (CGSC). After the event, I headed back to Leavenworth with Bernie and family to reminisce about the days when I attended school there.My first school assignment to Fort Leavenworth was after Operation Desert Shield/Storm when I attended the Combined Arms Services Staff School (CAS3), which is no more. The six-week course prepared qualified captains for advanced staff officer positions. I spent last Saturday night at Hoge Barracks, the former CAS3 captain’s quarters but now the post’s Army Hotel – and much nicer.I returned to Fort Leavenworth in 1996 to attend CGSC and earned my diploma and second master’s degree. The new CGSC facility is impeccable and worthy for training the next generation of American military, and international, officers. My last time at Fort Leavenworth in uniform was for the pre-Battalion Command course that lasted for two-and-a-half weeks.Upon returning last week, I arose on Sunday morning and had a nice six-mile run down memory lane. I saw the Buffalo Soldier Monument and remembered being there for the dedication. I ran past what once was the U.S. Military Disciplinary Barracks. (The prison is now part of the federal penitentiary.)
The biggest change was that Fort Leavenworth was an open Army post in the “old days.” As we entered the post this time, we had to show identification at an entrance with several security lanes. Despite those measures, Bernie and I mused about the lax nature of the security, and we chatted about the Fort Hood, Texas, mass shooting incident in 2009, where Maj. Nidal Hasan entered the post basically because of his vehicle decal and ID card, no further checks.
Little did we know that less than 24 hours later, another shooter would repeat the horror of Fort Hood at the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C.
The way it was – and is now
A military installation is supposed to be one of the safest places in the country. I remember being stationed at Fort Hood and how our daughters, Aubrey and Austen, would just ride their bikes with their friends for hours. They often rode over to the post movie theater for a Saturday matinee or to the swimming pool. We never felt nervous about them being out and about.It is incredible how the security situation has changed in this post-9/11 world, but we seemingly have taken only cursory measures for our military installations.Four years ago we were shocked by the news of the carnage wrought upon our last duty posting. Our family knew what it meant to be on “lockdown” and could not fathom that happening at Fort Hood. Thousands of military and civilian personnel operated on the largest U.S. military installation in the world and never thought they would be attacked. (Yes, it was a terrorist attack.)New security protocols seem to be in place now, but as we know, security has to be perfect every time. An attacker just needs to be perfect one time.And so it happened again Monday. Military and civilian personnel at the Navy Yard believed they worked at a place that was the safest among the safe. My own dear friend, retired Marine Lt. Col. Neal Puckett, works there. How was it that a heavily armed individual penetrated the security perimeter and engaged unarmed personnel?
Back after the Fort Hood shooting, Michael Savage asked me on his radio show how soldiers could be defenseless and shot on a military installation. We learned then that an executive order from the early 1990s did something inconceivable – turned our military installations into gun-free kill zones. Under that executive order, only select individuals can be armed on a military installation, military police and civilian contract police.
Unarmed forts are unacceptable policy
It is unconscionable that our uniformed servicemen and civilians are defenseless and unarmed at places called “forts.” If an attacker breaches the perimeter security of a base, he is then in a free-fire area. At both Fort Hood and the Navy Yard, civilian police were the ones who took down the assailant.And consider this, it took 10 minutes and 7 minutes respectively for armed response at those facilities. Just imagine what an armed assailant with multiple weapons and unlimited ammunition could do to unarmed military personnel and Defense Department civilians in that span of time.The breaching of perimeter security on military installations is not just happening here in the continental United States. It also has occurred in a combat zone, namely Afghanistan. The attack at the Navy Yard came one year and one day after an attack at Camp Bastion in Helmand Province.Some 15 Taliban attackers got past Tongan guards, not U.S. military, and attacked the AV-8B Harrier II aircraft of the U.S. Marine VMA-211 squadron. The ensuing four-hour firefight resulted in the deaths of two Marines, squadron commander Lt. Col. Christopher Raible and Sgt. Bradley Atwell. Nine Marines were injured, and six Harrier fighter jets and one C-130 aircraft were destroyed.The attack marked the largest single loss of U.S. fighter aircraft since Vietnam – and to this day no one has explained why Tongans were on the perimeter.
Whether we are bolstering defenses against the likes of Aaron Alexis at the Navy Yard, the Taliban in Afghanistan or Nidal Hasan at Fort Hood, we must ensure for this generation and the next that our military installations are highly secure. Our gaps are being exploited, and in this post-9/11 world, the enemy is watching.
Steadfast and Loyal,
Allen B. West