CHANGING OF THE GUARD
After Gen. George Washington transferred his headquarters to West Point in 1779, continental soldiers took action to secure the fortress. Among these defenses was the extension of a 150-ton iron chain across the Hudson River. The 500-yard “Great Chain,” used from 1778 to 1782, was floated on logs to deter enemy ships and helped to keep the British from capturing West Point.
Today, links from that chain rest on iron pedestals as part of a monument overlooking the Hudson they once protected, one of many memorials dotting the United States Military Academy grounds at West Point, N.Y.
While the means of securing West Point have changed since the Great Chain, the need to do so has not. Since Sept. 11, 2001, military guards armed with M-16s have been stationed at West Point around the clock.
Force protection coordinates security
On a daily basis, some 4,000 cadets train to be soldiers in the buildings, bluffs and fields overlooking the Hudson. The job of protecting the cadets, as well as West Point’s entire eight-square-mile campus and central post area, falls to the Force Protection department, which is responsible for physical security, personnel security and anti-terrorism. It is part of the First Battalion/First Infantry (First of the First). Lt. Col. Bruce Stanley is commander of the battalion and Charles Peddy is the force protection officer.
Private guards to replace military
Two Connecticut National Guard units, the 103rd Chemical Company and the 134th Military Police Company, have performed guard duties at West Point since May of 2003. This spring, when the units’ tours of duty are up, they will be replaced by private security guards under a Department of Defense (DoD) initiative implemented by the 2003 Defense Authorization Act. The initiative impacts military installations throughout the country, allowing them to use private security forces for the first time in 20 years.
A Department of the Army contract to provide private guard service at 13 installations, including West Point, has been awarded to Alutiiq Security & Technology, which is authorized to spend up to $100 million for approximately 900 guards, says Bruce Swagler, program manager for Alutiiq. The company, with headquarters in Chesapeake, Va., is part of Alutiiq, LLC, Anchorage, Alaska. The companies are subsidiaries of Afognak Native Corp., an Alaska Native Corporation formed under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act.
West Point is among 11 sites slated to make the changeover from Army to private security this spring; two others — Fort Bragg in Fayetteville, N.C. and the Army War College in Carlisle, Pa. — already have private guards in place.
West Point, like the other military installations, will have an Alutiiq project manager on-site to coordinate guard operations with Force Protection. James Luongo is the project manager at West Point; he and Peddy had begun working together to coordinate issues such as training and transition planning well before the new guards’ arrival.
Like their military counterparts, the private guards will be stationed at the Washington, Stony Lonesome and Thayer Gates, as well as other high-priority areas. These priority areas are also protected by a combination of surveillance cameras, access control and hydraulic barriers. The Army will supply the private guards with the same Motorola XTS 5000 hand-held radios used by the military guards.
Routine vehicle checks
Vehicle checks are the backbone of force protection at West Point. Since Sept. 11, the Army has instituted a 100 percent vehicle identification check. Cars are stopped, drivers and passengers’ IDs are checked; hoods are lifted; trunks are carefully inspected. Access to particular areas is limited. The public, moreover, is allowed to enter at only two of the three gates, where they are routed to special lanes for non-DoD personnel. Nearly 3 million people a year visit West Point.
Daily vehicle checks have exposed illegal aliens trying to gain access to West Point, says Peddy, most often to seek employment. “The guards have determined that their IDs were false, called our Military Police and held them until the MPs arrived. A lot of the people are looking for work; some are just trying to come on Post. We don’t know why.
“Illegal aliens cannot work here — by law, they cannot work anywhere. Even if (an illegal alien) has been hired by a contractor or subcontractor, they will be turned away. Everyone, including all employees — even I — get checked every day,” Peddy says.
While the responsibilities of the private guards will be almost the same as those of the National Guardsmen, the law enforcement authority will be somewhat different. “They will have a force protection, rather than law enforcement role,” says Peddy. “They can stop you, check your ID, search your vehicle, and take appropriate measures to detain you until law enforcement officials show up. They will be armed with 9mm pistols and shotguns, rather than M-16s.”
Controlling deliveries of hazardous materials
Among the most stringent of West Point’s security measures are those related to truck access, particularly trucks carrying hazardous materials. The private guards will help inspect and, in some cases, escort trucks as they arrive at Stony Lonesome, the only gate through which they are allowed to pass.
Here, a combination of trained dogs and electronic hand-held chemical detectors are used to check the vehicles and their cargo for chemicals used in explosives. Paperwork such as bills of lading is carefully checked as well.
When one visitor approached West Point on a weekday morning, guards waved her through after the vehicle and ID check, but she failed to get the thumbs-up from five-year-old Harry, a black lab supplied by Michael Stapleton Associates, New York City. Frisky and ready for action, he wanted to do his own vehicle check.
On the subject of hazardous materials, Peddy says, “We have trucks delivering diesel fuel, propane gas, gasoline, heating oil and industrial substances such as chemicals for the water treatment plant. They deliver chlorine for water treatment and the swimming pool, as well as pressurized bottled gas and oxygen for the hospital.”
Such trucks must satisfy expanded checkpoint requirements, waiting while guards call the Provost Marshall’s office on a direct line, where the vehicles’ license and driver are checked against a computer database to rule out any irregularities, such as a stolen truck.
“Then, we escort those trucks carrying hazardous materials to their destination, stay with them, and escort them back out,” says Peddy. “We use a combination of soldiers riding with the drivers, and escort vehicles. The guards stay with the truck until it has finished delivering its supplies, which may take two or three hours.”
Leaning forward in his chair, he says: “Look, our biggest threat is a vehicle-borne bomb — the bad guy with 100 pounds of explosives who wants to hurt cadets. Attacking West Point is very symbolic. On a day-to-day basis, we’ll check cars for bombs. That’s why we search cars.”
Tourists and special events
One of Peddy’s biggest challenges relates to the variety of activities occurring at West Point. He must tailor force protection to these activities and the required level of security. For the guards, becoming familiar with the campus, its daily routines and special events will be a training priority.
Within the campus are an impressive array of gothic-style buildings, stunning chapels, large fields, residences and recreational facilities. These include a bowling alley, field house and the well-known 30,000-seat Michie Stadium, where Army football games are played. In addition, the public visits West Point to enjoy the West Point Museum, the full-service Thayer Hotel, Eisenhower Hall, site of concerts and plays; and Trophy Point, where a popular summer concert series is held.
While West Point has a steady stream of visitors year-round, Peddy says several events stand out as the busiest. There is graduation day, with some 15,000 visitors; Reception Day (R-Day), when the new cadet class arrives to begin summer training, and the seven home football games. Arrangements for extra guards and/or overtime have been built into Alutiiq’s contract with the Army. During all high-visitor events, extra guards are stationed at the gates.
“For football games, we have 30,000 people all arriving in an average span of a few hours. We use an incredible number of soldiers to deny access to certain areas on the Post and ensure that people are directed to park in a certain place. At the end of the day, they leave without the ability to go into those areas we are protecting,” Peddy says.
“People, for instance, get a colored pass when they buy a ticket. This will tell them which gate to enter. Once they go through the gate they are directed to a particular area, with most parking on Post.
“Several hundred soldiers ensure that cars are parked in designated areas without the ability to move freely around. Then,” continues Peddy, “when people enter the stadium they go through metal detectors (five are placed in four different areas). We also have guards with metal-detecting wands.”
Securing the Post when the new cadets arrive poses yet another kind of challenge. “R-Day is very intense, because the families begin arriving at 5:30 a.m.,” Peddy says. “We increase our presence in the cadet area. Although the cadets say their goodbyes to parents at 10 a.m., the families wait for the oath ceremony at 4 to 5 p.m. before leaving. In the meantime, parents have the opportunity to walk around the Post. Access is limited, but still greater than normal. They can go to some of the academic buildings, for instance, but not to the barracks.”
West Point is guarded around the clock. Discussing manpower needs, Peddy says, “For every position, you need roughly five people to cover a total of three eight-hour shifts; you’ve got to take into account days off, training, and vacations.
Peddy has requested extra guards for contingencies, such as large events. Swagler, Alutiiq’s program manager, notes, “We did bill in 10 percent over the minimum requirements on our contract with the Department of the Army to cover contingency operations. This will allow us to extend the hours; for instance, from 8 to 12-hour shifts.”
Alutiiq has subcontracted with Wackenhut Services Inc., Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. Under their teaming agreement, Alutiiq will provide 51 percent and Wackenhut up to 49 percent of the guards at the military installations. Supervising the guards will be a team headed by the Alutiiq project manager, with the Wackenhut operations manager as his or her direct subordinate, Swagler explains.
Training for the guards will be extensive and will be carried out both by Alutiiq and West Point. Says Swagler, “We are required to give the prospective guards 160 hours of training, as specified in Army regulations for contract guard services. This ranges from weapons qualification to search-and-seizure operations, traffic control, jurisdiction requirements, military protocol, unarmed self-defense and first aid.
“For instance,” continued Swagler, “the guards learn that different areas of West Point may be under federal, state or local jurisdiction. If they do not have a military background, we teach them the different military ranks and how to address officers who carry that rank.”
Once the guards arrive at West Point, they will undergo 40 hours of intensive training by First of the First personnel, says Peddy. “We’ll train them on checking identification, searching vehicles, detecting explosives.”
“We’ll orient them to the Post, so that they know where all activities take place and what the normal routines are,” says Peddy. “This way, if something non-routine occurs, they will be alerted and can take appropriate action. They also need to know how to run the hydraulic barrier machinery and use the radios. The guards will receive a combination of classroom and hands-on instruction and will actually shadow the National Guard soldiers. In the event the National Guard ships out before the private guards arrive, we are prepared to use our own soldiers to perform interim guard duties,” Peddy says.
Eventually, Peddy expects that Alutiiq personnel will conduct this second round of training themselves. Ninety days have been allowed from the release of appropriations to the guard’s arrival at the military sites. West Point’s appropriations were released late in February.
Army teamwork aids force protection
Although he is a civilian employee, on contract from MPRI Inc., Alexandria, Va., Peddy brings an ex-Army officer’s teamwork and leadership skills to his job. He works closely with his immediate supervisor, Lt. Col. Stanley, and also with battalion operations officer, Major Jeff Simpson and with the Provost Marshall’s office.
“The Provost Marshall, Lt. Col. Rick Metro, has a staff that comes from The MP Company, and I may call on them for back-up personnel or supplies, such as radio back-up at the gates or to check out vehicles carrying hazardous materials,” says Peddy.
Force protection is also involved with emergency management. One concern that will be addressed this spring, Peddy says, is the potential hazard from a rail derailment. “West Point is a thruway for cargo trains, which carry everything from lumber to ammonia to chlorine. The trains do not stop here, but a derailment would pose a significant safety hazard. We’re planning an exercise this spring involving such a scenario,” says Peddy, who will work closely with Gerald Knapp, West Point’s emergency management planner.
With a solid team of soldiers available for training and back-up support, Peddy does not expect the private guards to have difficulty meeting West Point’s unique challenges. Instead, he expects them to fall right in step.