JBLM not implementing new open-carry protocols

By Pamela Kulokas, JBLM PAO on March 24, 2016

Despite that a few Air Force installations in the U.S. have recently authorized programs allowing an increased armed presence on base, at this time, Joint Base Lewis-McChord is not implementing new security measures.

The Unit Marshal Program, Security Forces Staff Arming, and Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act, are protocols some Air Force installations have elected to follow, largely in response to guidance from Secretary of Defense Ash Carter in the summer after a series of mass shootings took place - including the incidents at a recruiting station and Navy Reserve Center in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where four marines and a sailor died, and others were wounded July 16.

The national conversation after the Chattanooga events centered on how to protect servicemembers at remote locations and recruiting offices, and whether or not arming troops at off-installation DoD facilities should be part of the solution.

According to Mathew Toth, deputy director, Directorate of Emergency Services, people are concerned for all the right reasons, but that doesn't mean JBLM can authorize just anyone to open-carry weapons on base.

Although the joint-base commander has the authority to arm additional servicemembers with government weapons, currently there is no plan to implement UMP or LEOSA programs at JBLM because force protection is well in-hand, Toth said.

The SFSA program is currently being used at JBLM by airmen with the 627th Security Forces Squadron, Toth said.

"Installation commanders have always had the authority to arm people up if they feel there is a threat," he said. "Under existing regulations, they have always had the authority and responsibility to protect their people, and that includes arming people up if necessary."

That decision, however, Toth said, must be based on a credible threat. JBLM has a robust security force in place that stands ready to counter any threat to the installation - active shooter scenarios included.

Unit Marshal Program - This new program's policies and procedures were finalized by the Air Force in November. Select airmen are chosen to train for the program that allows them to carry a government weapon during the duty day where they work.

The purpose is to immediately confront an active-shooter situation - a break glass in case of emergency type of situation, Toth said. The Army does not have a Unit Marshal Program, and the program has not been authorized at JBLM.

For more information or questions about carrying weapons on JBLM, call DES at 253.966.0666.