The U.S. Defense Department formally requested on Friday that armed volunteers stop standing guard outside military installations across the U.S, citing potential “security risks.”
Following the attacks in Chattanooga, Tennessee, which claimed the lives of five military men, armed individuals flocked to recruiting centers and voluntarily stood guard outside. Federal law prohibits most military members from carrying their weapons at military installations.
In a statement issued Friday, Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said the department takes “the safety of our service members, our DoD civilians, and the families who support them very seriously.”
“While we greatly appreciate the outpouring of support for our recruiters from the American public, we ask that individuals not stand guard at recruiting offices as it could adversely impact our mission, and potentially create unintended security risks,” he added.
Cook said that the Pentagon would continue to work with law enforcement to ensure the safety of military members.
“We continue to partner with and rely on first responders for the safety of the communities where our service members live and work,” he said.
Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter, Cook said, “is currently reviewing recommendations from the services for making our installations and facilities safer – including our recruiting stations.”
The Army was not happy about the armed civilians who stood guard either.
According to Stars and Stripes, a U.S. Army Recruiting Command policy letter issued on Monday warns soldiers to “avoid anyone standing outside the recruiting centers attempting to offer protection and report them to local law enforcement and the command, if they feel threatened.”
In Cleveland on Thursday, state Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, and his son Nathan, a Marine veteran who served in Afghanistan, came armed and stood guard outside a Cleveland military recruiting center.
Bell said Saturday he did so at his son’s request. “I don’t know if I would do it again, it was important to do it the other day,” Bell told Times Free Press. “My son had asked me to.”
But, the Senator added that he feels the volunteer guarding is “important for the symbolism of just doing it and letting the military personnel know that we support them.”
As for the Pentagon’s request, Bell said “would it have a bearing if the right circumstances rose? Probably not.”
However, Bell said, he remains hopeful that the Pentagon will change policies to make it easier for military personnel to protect themselves from such attacks in the future.
And, he added, he fully supports the legislation sponsored by U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn., and other U.S. House members from Tennessee which would require the Pentagon to develop a new policy requiring the designation of properly trained soldiers carrying military-issue firearms to go armed.