Fort Benning

Background checks part of new security protocol to enter Benning

Cars leave the Fort Benning main gate onto Fort Benning Drive Tuesday. 10.01.13
Cars leave the Fort Benning main gate onto Fort Benning Drive Tuesday. 10.01.13

Visitors to Fort Benning who lack proper identification may face a national background check or be denied entry to the post under new security measures going into effect Jan. 1.

Matt Dillon, the chief of guards at Fort Benning, said the new security requirements are part of Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12. Installations across the nation are implementing the security measures signed by President George W. Bush in 2004 to properly vet all individuals entering a military installation.

“If an individual shows up in a vehicle it could be a soldier in uniform and he presents us with a driver’s license or state ID card, we will request a government ID,” Dillon said. “If they don’t have it, they will be treated as a visitor and turned around to the visitor control center and undergo a background check.”

The new security measures are the first major change since the Department of Defense stopped using vehicle stickers or a day pass in June 2011 for motorists entering Fort Benning. Dillon said the new policy focuses on vetting individuals instead of vehicles.

“It is almost the same concept,” Dillon said. “We are vetting people as opposed to cars.”

Under the new policy, a person with a valid state or federal government identification is considered vetted and able to enter the installation. Others entering the installation must be escorted by a government employee. Anyone who is unescorted must possess a Common Access Card or CAC, military ID card or other authorized federal identification. Contractors working on the installation would be allowed access with a CAC card.

When asked about a reason to enter the post, Dillon said an applicant going to a job interview would be a valid reason. A person should allow at least 10 minutes to get a pass to enter the post. That time is used to do a background check by the certified officers in the control center.

“If you pass it, you will be issued a temporary pass,” he said. “It would allow you to go through for a set period of time. That is based on your sponsor and visitor requirement.”

Passes issued will be turned off digitally after the period expires. “We would not have to collect it back up,” he said.

Under the security guidelines, some visitors will be denied entry to Fort Benning. They include registered sex offenders, felons who have been convicted of murder and other serious crimes, acts to overthrow the government, showing up on a terrorist data base and other serious offenses.

In some cases, there is an appeal process for those denied entry. The process involves writing a letter, having a sponsor and sending a letter to the mission commander to determine if access should be granted. If the person is denied, he or she may apply again a year after disapproval.

Dillon said the post is already looking at some workers who don’t meet criteria to enter the post. “We’ve got a few people that we are seeing if they meet the mitigation criteria,” he said.

“It concerns people’s livelihood, so we are taking it very seriously. At the same time, we are trying to safeguard the soldiers, civilians and families who train and work out here.”

Motorists can expect to see a temporary increase in staff at the gate on Jan. 1. Soldiers in uniform will help Department of the Army guards who are conducting the vetting process.

The cost of the security program is unavailable, a public affairs spokeswoman said. Kevin Clarke, chief of police, said the cost will depend on whether the post continues to use borrowed manpower versus the Army authorizing more civilian staff.

The security staff will provide the same service to visitors as they have in the past. “We pride ourselves on being customer friendly and not compromise security,” Dillon said. “Hopefully you will see the same kind of standard at the access control point you have seen in the past.”

Related stories from Columbus Ledger-Enquirer