Tags: Pentagon | recruiting offices

Pentagon: Civilian Guards Not Wanted at Recruiting Offices

By    |   Saturday, 25 Jul 2015 02:03 PM

The Pentagon is saying thanks, but no thanks, to civilians in several states who are showing up with firearms to protect the unarmed personnel inside.

On Friday, the Pentagon asked that individuals stand down at military recruiting offices, where they've stepped in as guards  after shootings last week in Chattanooga, Tenn., in which four Marines and a sailor were killed.

The Army has already warned recruiters to treat the civilians gathering outside the centers as a security threat, reports Stars and Stripes.

In a U.S. Army Recruiting Command Policy letter issued on Monday, just three days after the Chattanooga shootings, soldiers were told to avoid the armed civilians outside the centers and report them to local law enforcement or their commanding officers if they feel as if they're being threatened.

"I'm sure the citizens mean well, but we cannot assume this in every case and we do not want to advocate this behavior," according to the letter, which has been authenticated.

On July 17, Mohammad Youssef Abdulazeez, 24, who was born in Kuwait, first fired into the front of a recruiting station in Chattanooga, and then went to the nearby Navy Operational Support Center, where he killed the military personnel.

Investigators found that a Navy officers and a Marine fired at Abdulazeez, even though Defense Department policy forbids anyone except military police or law enforcement officials to carry firearms on federal property, Stars and Stripes reports.

Recruiters are to be "polite and professional" if questioned by armed civilians, the letter said, but "terminate the conversation immediately and report the incident to local law enforcement," the letter said.

Army Recruiting Command Spokeswoman Kelli Bland told Stars and Stripes that there are other ways local residents can help secure area recruiting centers, including by reporting suspicious activity to law enforcement officials.

Despite the order, one group, "Oath Keepers," issued a national call from its base in Las Vegas for members to guard recruiting centers, and its president, Stewart Rhodes, told The Associated Press that it's "absolutely insane" that the Defense Department does not allow recruiters to be armed.

"They're sitting ducks," Rhodes said. "They'd be better off if they were walking down the streets of Baghdad, because at least in Baghdad, they could move. Here, they're stationary."

Some of the civilians who have been ordered to leave their self-appointed posts at the recruiting centers are not happy.

In Jacksonville, Florida, Marine veteran Matthew Benack decided to stand guard outside the center, and police had said that he was within his rights to have a loaded weapon outside the center as long as the owner of the strip mall where it was located had given permission, reports local CBS affiliate WNCT

Benack said the strip mall's owner, represented by Coldwell Banker Commercial Sun Coast Partners, had allowed him to be there, but on Tuesday the property managers asked him to leave after she changed her mind.

“We value the sacrifices our armed forces make for this country each day and hold all branches of the military in the highest esteem," a company representative Grayson Powell, said in a statement.

"We take the security of the recruiters in Westwood Village extremely seriously and are in communications with them about the best way to work together to ensure their safety and the safety of all of our tenants. Yet having an armed civilian who is not known to us, the recruiters or the police arrive to stand vigil in a busy shopping center has the potential to create an unsafe environment, and it is our responsibility to ensure both our tenants’ and customers’ safety.”

Benack said on his Facebook page  that he is disappointed, but asked his supporter not to protest, warning them that they could be arrested.

In Ohio — where Gov. John Kasich, a presidential candidate, also issued an order that recruiters bear firearms — an armed civilian is facing criminal misdemeanor charges after his weapon fired a shot while he was standing guard outside a recruiting center, The Associated Press reports.

Police in Lancaster, Ohio, said Christopher Reed, 28, was holding an AR-15 rifle outside a recruiting center, and the shot went off after someone asked to look at the weapon. Reed was clearing the ammunition from the rifle and it went off, firing a shot into the pavement. No injuries were reported.

Meanwhile, governors in several states, have ordered National Guard members to be armed after the Chattanooga attacks, reports AP.

Further, Florida Gov. Rick Scott has immediately relocated recruiters into armories rather than the storefront locations they'd been using while security improvements, including the installation of bullet-proof glass or surveillance equipment.

However, the Defense Department on Thursday firmly rejected the idea of arming all service members on domestic military installations, reports McClatchyDC, http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/nation-world/national/national-security/article28359811.html, rejecting a growing call in Congress to allow military personnel to protect themselves from attack.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter is awaiting recommendations from the five branches of the military, Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, said, but meanwhile, there are variety of reasons the Pentagon does not support arming military personnel.

“(There are) safety concerns, the prohibitive cost for use-of-force and weapons training, qualification costs as well as compliance with multiple weapons-training laws," Davis said.

Meanwhile, a bipartisan group of lawmakers has advanced legislation aimed at removing some of the limits that were imposed under Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton during the 1990s.

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The Pentagon is saying thanks, but no thanks, to civilians in several states who are showing up with firearms to protect the unarmed personnel inside.
Pentagon, recruiting offices
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2015-03-25
Saturday, 25 Jul 2015 02:03 PM
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