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New gate hours not slowing down motorists

By April Blumer | 37th Training Wing Public Affairs Office | Nov. 15, 2007

LACKLAND AIR FORCE BASE, TEXAS — Swinging by the base exchange for lunch might take a few minutes longer for employees working on the training side of the base, but the extra couple minutes is helping reduce strain on the fully tapped security forces personnel.

"As we continue to support the Global War on Terrorism, our security forces personnel remain undermanned and stressed. In an effort to alleviate some of the home station security requirements at Lackland, we conducted a study to see if we can either close and/or reduce the hours of operation at some of our installation gates," said Col. Bob LaBrutta, 37th Mission Support Group commander.

"After reviewing the results of this extensive study, we made a couple of changes, including changing the hours of operation for Selfridge West and Gateway West gates," said the colonel.

On Oct. 27, the operating hours of Selfridge West Gate changed to 6 to 8 a.m., Monday through Friday.

The Gateway West Gate hours became 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Both gates are closed on weekends and federal holidays.

In the traffic study conducted from June 1 to Aug. 15, data showed that Selfridge West Gate traffic peaked consistently from 6:30 to 8 a.m. with an average of 1,100 vehicles during this period.

After those peak hours, inbound traffic reduced drastically to an average of 120 vehicles per hour.

The data for Gateway West Gate were very similar to Selfridge West Gate. Traffic peaked consistently from 6:30 to 8 a.m. with average of 1,500 vehicles during this period.

After peak hours, inbound traffic dropped drastically to an average of 64 vehicles per hour.

Capt. Doug Whitehead, 37th Security Forces Squadron operations officer, said Team Lackland personnel have shared with base leadership their concerns about the new hours at Selfridge West Gate.

Worries about traffic congestion and delayed response time of emergency vehicles have topped the list.

"Our first responders don't use the Selfridge West Gate because that crosses jurisdiction lines," explained Captain Whitehead. "And we've been watching the flow of traffic closely (since changing the hours) and there hasn't been any significant increase in time it takes to exit the base during peak hours."

What has increased is the morale of the security forces personnel.

"The (security forces) Airmen who man the gates appreciate the changes because it's helping them better cope with their training schedules and frequent number of deployments," Captain Whitehead said.

Lackland still offers motorists nine open gates to enter and exit the base. That's seven more than required by the chief of staff of the Air Force.

In a memorandum dated Aug. 15, 2005, Gen. T. Michael Moseley encouraged bases to review their use of security forces personnel for police services.

The memo suggests bases have only one 24-hour gate and one commercial vehicle entry gate, with additional guidance of using trained non-security forces or contractors to man those gates.

According to Captain Whitehead, the ultimate goal is to take Lackland Airmen off the gates entirely once all the gate sentries are hired and trained under the new Air Force guard program.

"This way, our young Airmen can get more practical experience and training with their law enforcement jobs, making them able to more effectively respond to the base's law enforcement needs," said Captain Whitehead.

"Additionally, by having only Air Force civilian guards post the gates, there will be more continuity with enforcing rules about base access. With the high deployment cycle of our security forces, it's sometimes difficult to achieve that continuity," the captain said.

According to Colonel LaBrutta, "Our security forces professionals will monitor gate operations as a result of these changes and adjust operations at the remaining open gates to handle the additional traffic flow."