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Fort Benning opens high-tech checkpoint near Harmony Church

A new checkpoint opened off U.S. 27 late Tuesday, giving Armor School soldiers and visitors to Harmony Church a separate entrance into a growing section of Fort Benning.

“This is the mothership of access control out here,” Maj. Matt Dillon, chief of guards for the Directorate of Emergency Services, said Wednesday during lunch-hour traffic. “They are going to hear things here that they don’t hear at other checkpoints. They may see things they may wonder about.”

With five lanes, Dillion said the high-tech checkpoint off 8th Division Road is equipped with ground lights to see beneath vehicles and sensors to alert security staff if a vehicle is moving too fast through the checkpoint. Two lanes were staffed Wednesday, moving vehicles through the area.

The checkpoint is expected to relieve traffic from the Interstate 185 checkpoint and may become the largest on post.

“Once we are fully manned, this will probably be the largest on the installation,” Dillon said. “Once we are up and totally running, this will be larger than 185.”

The checkpoint was paid for by the Base Realignment and Closure process that moved the Armor School from Fort Knox, Ky., to Fort Benning. The school will bring 7,500 soldiers to the Maneuver Center of Excellence. Including soldiers, the expansion is projected to bring a total of 28,000 people -- including family members, civilian workers and contractors -- to the Chattahoochee Valley by Sept. 15. “The Armor School is going to claim this as their own,” Dillon said of the checkpoint. “This is the main gate into their area.”

The Harmony Church checkpoint is the seventh public entrance to Fort Benning. In addition to I-185, other checkpoints are at Benning Road, Buena Vista Road, two in the Sand Hill area and one at Eddy Bridge off Ala. 165.

Staff has already seen a drop in traffic at I-185. At Harmony Church, it takes about two minutes to get a vehicle through during peak hours compared with nine to 10 minutes at I-185. Many trucks are now using Harmony Church, which has a special lane for trucks.

“By us bringing the truck traffic further out here, we are helping them to get where they need to be a lot faster,” Dillon said.

Traffic was minimal Tuesday when the location opened but it picked up Wednesday with soldiers and others, said guard Harry Hovey.

“It has been heavy especially between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m.,” Hovey said. “You got a lot of civilians working in mess halls and various jobs.”

To fully staff the checkpoints, Dillon said he is hiring guards to replace Wackenhut Security, a private company with a contract through the end of May. He will be hiring new guards over the next year. Some longtime Wackenhut personnel have been hired by the Department of the Army.

“There will be no more contract security,” said Dillon, a civilian worker for the Department of the Army.

The new location will be a friendly place to enter the post.

“We are going to try to be more user friendly without compromising security,” Dillon said.