JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas —
Mexico is among the world's most popular destinations for warm weather vacations, but because of violence stemming from drug wars that have killed tens of thousands of people in recent years, active-duty members can only travel to certain locations there with a commander's approval.
According to an Air Education and Training Command memorandum from August 2013, nonofficial travel to, or through, any part of Mexico within 50 statute miles of the U.S.-Mexico border is prohibited.
Also forbidden is nonofficial travel to 13 of its states: Michoacan, Tamaulipas, Chihuaha, Sinaloa, Durango, Coahuila, Nuevo Leon, San Luis Potosi, Jalisco, Zacatecas, Sonora, Nayarit and Guerrero - where Acapulco is.
Family emergencies such as funerals are the only exception that can allow active-duty members to go to restricted Mexican areas, Mance Clark, Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph antiterrorism officer, said.
Regardless of where members want to visit in Mexico, they must first notify their supervisors and antiterrorism representatives at least 30 days in advance, Clark said.
Members then must fill out an Exception to Policy form, receive Advanced Distributed Learning Service training, listen to a travel briefing from antiterrorism representatives, create an individual travel plan and get approval signatures from an O-6 or government service-equivalent for travel to prohibited states, or an O-5 or government service-equivalent for nonprohibited states.
"This process applies to members who intend to travel to any foreign location," Clark said. "We ensure they receive the latest intelligence about where they are going for their safety and awareness."
According to the memorandum, "AETC civilian employees, AETC dependents, other members of the reserve components and AETC contractors traveling for nonofficial purposes are strongly urged to abide by all travel prohibitions and advisories."
Master Sgt. Charlene Basallote, JBSA-Randolph Antiterrorism Office NCO in charge, also urged everyone to do extensive research before they book a trip.
"Know the area and its surroundings the best you can," she said. "Ask people who have traveled to your destination what they did, what went right and wrong. Read online travel reviews and informational guides."
To access information about a country's threats to safety, medical facilities and road conditions provided by the Department of State, visit http://travel.state.gov. For passport requirements, travel advisories, health precautions and more, visit https://www.fcg.pentagon.mil and type a country's name in the search bar.
"If you notice anything suspicious during your travels, contact the local authorities and inform us about your experience when you get back so we can further research the matter," Clark said. "The more facts we collect from travelers, the better we can prepare those traveling in the future."
For more information, call the JBSA-Randolph Antiterrorism Office at 652-1357; JBSA-Lackland Antiterrorism Office at 671-5926; or the JBSA-Fort Sam Houston Antiterrorism Office at 295-0534.