Bases in Europe will try to run activities, services as usual, but waits loom at gates
March 20, 2003
Military headquarters in Europe are announcing no plans to seal off posts in case of war with Iraq, but much of what actually happens depends on individual bases and emerging threats in their areas.
Troops, civilian employees and family members could experience longer waits when entering gates, officials say, but should otherwise attempt to live and work as normal.
“It will take longer to get in and out of the gate, just to do additional checks,” said Lt. Cmdr. Rick Haupt, a spokesman for U.S. European Command in Stuttgart, Germany. The deployment of troops and their replacements in the form of civilian guards, combined with increased vigilance, may affect how long it takes to get past gates.
“But in general, typical activities and services on U.S. military installations will continue as usual, with case-by-case exceptions,” Haupt said.
Nonetheless, EUCOM increased the security level to Charlie — the second highest of four levels — throughout the command on Tuesday, and Department of Defense Dependents Schools announced that no athletic competitions would be held over the weekend.
A spokesman for the Army’s Installation Management Agency for Europe said that he expects no air of wartime emergency here if the lights go out in Baghdad.
“They’ll have water. They’ll have electricity,” Sandy Goss said of troops’ families. “They’ll be able to go to the commissary to get ice cream and rent videos.”
The Army and Air Force Exchange Service plans to keep doors open unless commanded otherwise, spokeswoman Jeanne McDonald said. The same can be said for schools.
Sport practices will also continue, but some activities may be canceled. Sports competitions were canceled over the weekend because they require travel, schools spokesman Frank O’Gara said.
Rather than panic, Goss pleaded for patience when Americans do experience delays.
“Just be aware it’s being done for your safety and the safety of everyone else, and just be tolerant,” Goss said. “We’re all trying to do a good job, so cut them some slack.”
Individual military services are offering much the same message as EUCOM. The Army expects no big changes, spokeswoman Marjorie Barrell said. It is, however, telling troops not to wear uniforms anywhere except on post, and to and from work.
“And only for essential stops, like getting gasoline or picking up children,” she said.
An Air Force spokesman, 1st Lt. Richard Komurek, said that uniform rule applies to all services when threats go up. He didn’t expect any tightening as far as access goes, but that remains fluid.
“If force protection levels get increased further, that’s the point where things could get changed,” Komurek said. “But we’re not at that point yet.”
Though the Navy declined to discuss particulars, sailors at Naval Station Rota, Spain, were told on Tuesday not to wear uniforms off the base. Capt. John Orem, the station’s commander, also told sailors via a radio address that base-sponsored trips and other events were canceled.
Otherwise, the Navy is making no predictions on life during wartime.
“It’s too early to say what may or not happen, or how things will be affected,” said Capt. Gordon Hume, spokesman for U.S. Navy Europe in London. Hume said sailors should remain in close touch with their commands and keep handy a list of emergency numbers.
“All commands do, in fact, have sort of reaction plans, some sort of action plan, for all sorts of scenarios,” Hume said.
Heather Miller, a spokeswoman with Ramstein Air Base, Gernany, the U.S. military’s largest post overseas, said brass would alert airmen to any changes in operations in plenty of time.
“More than likely,” Miller said, “they wouldn’t hear about it first on CNN.”