RAF MILDENHALL, England — Within three months, background checks that began 18 months ago on every non-American employee and contractor with access to U.S. bases in the United Kingdom will be complete.

The effort, however, has forced some people from their jobs.

Capt. Justin White, chief of security forces for Third Air Force at RAF Mildenhall, said the checks being done for the Air Force by the Ministry of Defence vetting office began in June 2003. They are being done to comply with Department of Defense and Air Force regulations put in place five years ago, but ignored in England for more than three years.

“It’s taken this long to get it enforced,” he said.

A definite deadline of Jan. 3, 2005, was set for compliance after several deadlines had been pushed back.

Since that date, any non-American whose background check has not been completed has required an escort while on U.S. Air Force bases in the United Kingdom or been prevented from entering. It doesn’t matter how long they’ve worked on the base or had access to it.

Eleonora Rodriquez, a Philippine citizen who has worked as a housekeeper for 100th Services Squadron at RAF Mildenhall for 13 months, was told last week she would lose her job.

So was South African Sunell Tarver, who has been a housekeeper for 10 months and is married to Senior Airman Edward Tarver, who is stationed at RAF Mildenhall.

“I just don’t understand why,” Tarver said Thursday.

Rodriquez had the same reaction.

“I thought they would just renew [my base pass],” she said.

White said workers like these two women lose their jobs because the U.K. government does not have agreements for background checks with their home countries.

“If [Ministry of Defence] cannot do a check, they cannot do an investigation,” White said, “which means [the person] cannot be employed.”

Master Sgt. James Maher, who works in the security policy office for Third Air Force, said Tarver would maintain access to the base as a military dependent. But, he said, she won’t be allowed to work.

“There’s a difference between installation access [and the ability to hold a job],” he said.

White said the DOD and Air Force requirements are five years old. In Germany, for example, the checks were done immediately.

For some reason — and White and Maher said they weren’t here to know — the checks were not done in the United Kingdom.

Finally, in June 2003, Third Air Force asked the Defence Ministry to do checks on people who are not Americans, but have access to the bases. Originally, a deadline of September 2003 was set.

“We realized that was a little bit unrealistic,” White said.

There was a backlog of thousands of checks to be made. Finally, after several other deadlines passed, the Jan. 3 date was set as firm.

“It was a line in the sand,” he said.

With that announcement made, the applications began flowing in from commands and units across the United Kingdom. White said 250 or more a month were being sent in and passed to the ministry’s vetting office, which is paid by the Air Force to do the checks.

In that time, thousands of people have been approved and are now equipped with the proper U.S. Air Forces in Europe pass required for base entry. Some, however, have lost their jobs.

The checks are now part of an application for a non-American seeking work on the base or access as a contractor.

But, White said, the ministry is still catching up on the overlooked checks, an effort that might be completed in 90 days.

“The backlog,” he said, “should be gone.”

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now