Apg Tightens Security Measures To Thwart Terrorists

Residents Asked To Note 'Suspicious' Movements

January 20, 1991|By Alan J. Craver | Alan J. Craver,Staff writer

Aberdeen Proving Ground has significantly heightened security at entrance gates and chemical warfare and research buildings on the post to avoid the possibility of terrorist incidents, U.S. Army officials said.

Army officials are also planning to hold meetings for military families stationed at the 72,518-acre research and training base toinform them of security precautions they should be taking.

APG is one of many military bases, government facilities and airports across the country that have stepped up security measures to prevent pro-Iraq acts of terrorism.

"In light of the situation, security measures have been increased and upgraded," said George Mercer, an APG spokesman. "A lot of them can't be discussed because that wouldcompromise security."

One day before U.S.-led air strikes began in Iraq and Kuwait, the base closed two of its six gates on Bel Air Avenue in Aberdeen and Route 152 in Magnolia. They will be closed indefinitely, said Mercer.

All traffic had to go through the gates at routes 22, 152, 755 and 715. Motorists without APG passes were stopped and questioned.

APG, however, was not closed to visitors.

TheU.S. Ordnance Museum, which has about 100,000 visitors a year, was still open for tours of its huge outdoor collection of tanks and otherArmy equipment.

On Tuesday, a reporter observed guards on duty atseveral APG entrances as traffic flowed freely through the gates.

By hursday morning, however, that had changed. Traffic was elayed asmotorists waited for clearance to enter the base. Five cars lined upat the APG gate on Route 22, stopped by military guards checking theidentification cards of motorists.

"It's due to increased security," one of the guards explained when questioned about the delay.

Motorists who do not have vehicle installation passes must stop at thevisitors' center to receive a guest pass.

Before getting the pass, visitors have to present driver's licenses and vehicle registrationcards. They also have to say where they are going on the base and how long they will be there.

Motorists have to sign waivers consenting to searches of their vehicles if searches are requested by military police.

At each of the gates, guards stop motorists at random and ask to search their vehicles for explosives and other weapons, Mercer said.

The random searches could affect the 10,000 civilians andcontract workers who pass through the gates each day, Mercer said. Most proving ground workers will be permitted to enter the military post simply by showing their identification cards.

Military policemen will continue to check motorists entering the installation around the clock until the Persian Gulf crisis is settled, Mercer said.

Military policeman were routinely posted at the installation's gates until about a year ago, when the facility became an "open post," Mercersaid.

"Obviously, the situation was different then," Mercer said.

APG officials will conduct a series of "town meetings" for the 5,200 family members of military personnel who live at the base, Mercersaid.

The meetings will be designed to increase awareness among the residents and to encourage them to report anything suspicious, such as strangers and vehicles parked in unauthorized areas, Mercer said.

"We're telling people that security, in part, depends on them," Mercer said.

"It's the type of thing you would do in your neighborhood," he added. "But we're not interested in burglars. We're interested in people who will harm people and government property."

In addition to the meetings, guards and random searches, APG officials will also tighten security at the testing, research and laboratory facilities on the base, Mercer said.

Mercer said he could not comment on specific security measures at those sites.

Mercer said that somefacilities, such as the Chemical Research Development and Engineering Center and the Tank Proving Center near Churchville, had been undertight security before the crisis in the Persian Gulf began in August.

Many of the testing and research facilities are closed to most APG employees and soldiers, Mercer added.

"Even though we have beenan open post, there are very large areas of the post that have been restricted," he said.

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