MARINE CORPS AIR STATION BEAUFORT, S.C. -- Fightertown’s gates were jammed with long lines of cars Tuesday morning as the Air Station’s Provost Marshals Office conducted a heightened security exercise here.
The exercise consisted of comprehensive inspections of all vehicles traveling aboard the Air Station, simulating the installation’s response to an increased Threat Condition.
“This is training that we need to do,” said Col. Robert Lanham, the Air Station commanding officer. “Without the ability to control the gate or traffic, without training the (military policemen), we can’t say we have total control. We’ve got to train before an incident actually occurs - just like combat.”
One goal of the exercise was to inspect every vehicle on board the Air Station, a task which took the majority of the day, according to Alan Archer, the deputy director of operations for the Air Station.
“This was a full-on vehicle search,” Archer said. “On average, the Air Station has 150 to 175 vehicles going through the gate per hour.”
The Provost Marshals Office began searching vehicles at approximately 4 a.m. and continued to search until 4:30 p.m., according to Maj. Bart Logue, the Air Station’s provost marshal.
“We searched well over 3,000 vehicles Tuesday,” Logue said.
The exercise was a unique learning experience for the Air Station – not only for the PMO Marines who executed the plan but for those who endured the long lines.
“This is great for many reasons,” Archer said. “After the exercise was completed, PMO now knows exactly what to do if the threat con level does elevate and (the Air Station) has a route all ready planned out for traffic.”
“One day of inconvenience for the security of the base is well worth it,” said Maj. John Manning, the commanding officer of Combat Logistic Company 23.
To expedite the process and help keep traffic from backing up on Highway 21, the Air Station utilized all gates available, including those normally closed to regular traffic, according to Archer. This allowed for traffic coming aboard the Air Station to filter in through several avenues.
“I’m very proud of the attitudes of the Marines, sailors, civilian Marines and the family members,” Lanham said. “I know this was a big inconvenience for everyone, but they all seemed to take it in stride.”
The exercise itself took about two months to plan, according to Lanham.
“We chose this time frame to conduct the exercise to ensure as many squadrons were back from deployment - and we wanted to do this before the holiday leave began,” Lanham said.
The comprehensive planning translated into a productive day of training, according to Logue.
“(PMO) is in the business of keeping people safe,” Logue said. “We are responsible for the security of everybody and everything on this base. Overall Tuesday was very successful, and at the end of the day the (MPs) were very tired but they were extremely motivated.