A new policy barring military and civilian personnel at Offutt Air Force Base from transporting privately owned firearms onto base beginning Jan. 2 has drawn a fierce backlash on social media, with one Facebook poster calling it “insanity” and another calling it “craziness.”
Col. Gavin Marks published the order Monday on his Facebook page, though Offutt personnel were notified of the change Dec. 9 by email, said Ryan Hansen, a 55th Wing spokesman. It followed a mandatory review of Offutt’s Integrated Defense and Anti-terrrorism Plan, which was required to be completed within 120 days after he assumed command of the 55th Wing last June.
“He spoke with security forces, OSI, many, many base agencies,” Hansen said. “He amended the policy because he felt it would be in the best interests of safety and security for everyone at Team Offutt.”
The decision follows two highly publicized Offutt-related gun incidents last year. In the first, Marine Pfc. Ali Al-Kazahg, 22, of Milford was arrested May 31 at Offutt’s StratCom gate while carrying two semi-automatic rifles, a pistol, a silencer, a bump stock, a vest with body armor and a case of ammunition.
In the second, an Offutt airman shot and killed his wife and then himself Sept. 28 in their home in the Rising View military housing area.
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Two other shootings at Navy bases in December — one at Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard, Hawaii, and the other at Naval Air Station Pensacola — left six dead and eight wounded.
Those latest shootings prompted new calls to allow more service members to carry weapons on base.
Marks’ order overturned a previous policy that allowed Department of Defense ID card holders with a concealed-carry license from Nebraska or reciprocating states to transport personal firearms onto base, provided they are inside their vehicles, unloaded and inside a locked container. That policy had been in place since September 2018, Hansen said.
Concealed carry of weapons outside of vehicles aren’t allowed at Offutt, or at other military bases.
The new restriction doesn’t apply to current and former military law enforcement personnel who have been granted permits under the Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act , which allowed qualifying military police to carry concealed weapons. Offutt began granting those permits two years ago and was among the first bases to do so.
“The commander’s intent for this change is that firearms will be effectively controlled and safely handled on Offutt AFB,” Marks said in the order, adding that it “is reflective of the full confidence in the 55th Security Forces Squadron’s ability to defend the installation and its personnel.”
Hansen said people who live in homes inside Offutt’s gates will still be able to carry unloaded firearms to and from their residences in locked containers as long as they tell the gate guard they have a registered weapon and are transporting it to their home.
By noon Tuesday, Marks’ Facebook post had drawn nearly 600 comments, almost all opposed to the change. Many of the posters’ profiles indicated that they were from out of state, though some did say they were personally affected by the change.
“This decision puts Offutt personnel in harm’s way and illustrates that the leadership does not trust their people,” wrote Tim Donahoo, whose LinkedIn profile said he is a navigator instructor on E-4B Nightwatch aircraft based at Offutt. “I’m not surprised but very disappointed with the decision to disarm service members and make them defenseless.”
Donahoo and others said the policy effectively prevents them from protecting themselves while traveling to and from Offutt.
Tara R. Simmons said in her Facebook post that she is married to a service member and would no longer want to attend on-base events with him because of the rule.
“We live a good twenty minutes from the base,” she wrote. “I cannot believe i have to leave my firearm at home. I am unprotected from the time I travel to and from the base. The idea of it makes me feel exposed.”
Hansen said Marks appreciates the response but is sticking with his decision.
“(He) understood from the beginning this change could be viewed negatively and may inconvenience some,” Hansen said in a statement. “However, he strongly believes in the policy change and feels it is in the best interest of Offutt Air Force Base.”
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Offutt Air Force Base is named for Lt. Jarvis Offutt — the first airman from Omaha killed in World War I.
1891: The area now known as Offutt Air Force Base was first commissioned as Fort Crook, an Army post to house cavalry soldiers and their horses. This photo, circa 1905, shows mounted officers and infantry troops assembling on the parade ground. The officers' quarters in the background still stand today, but the closing of Offutt's stables in 2010 ended the base's equine tradition.
1946: The World's Fair of Aviation was held at Offutt Air Force Base, including a race between a 1912 airplane and 1912 automobile. The 1912 airplane easily won, but provided sharp contrast to the sleek, modern "600-mile-per-hour aircraft" on display at the fair.
1952: Painter Frank Anania places the final bolt in the SAC emblem, newly placed on the command building at Strategic Air Command headquarters. After the command was created in 1946, SAC headquarters were moved from Andrews Field, Maryland, to Offutt Air Force Base. SAC's high-flying reconnaissance planes and bombers would go on to play a global role from the onset of the Cold War through the last bomb of the Persian Gulf War.
1956: The Strategic Air Command "nerve center" gets a new headquarters building at Offutt Air Force Base.
1957: Even since the late 1950s, Strategic Air Command has been holding open house events at Offutt Air Force Base to display and demonstrate aircraft for civilian visitors. Each year, the open house and air show at Offutt features aerial acts or reenactments, static displays, and booths showcasing military history and capabilities.
1959: The first SAC museum consisted of a section of abandoned runway near the north edge of Offutt Air Force Base outside of Bellevue. However, the outdoor display left the aircraft vulnerable to the elements.
1961: A Royal Air Force bomber crashes at Offutt Air Force Base. Beginning in the late 1950s, the RAF maintained small detachment and service facility for Vulcan bomber planes at Offutt, often participating in defense exercises and demonstrations at the base until their retirement and deactivation in 1982. This plane crashed at take-off at the northwest end of the main runway and then slid across Highway 73-75. All seven passengers survived.
1962: Just weeks after the Cuban missile crisis, President John F. Kennedy visits Offutt Air Force Base, accompanied by Gen. Thomas Power of Strategic Air Command, right.
1962: Actor Rock Hudson receives a B-52 bomber briefing during a visit to Omaha and Offutt Air Force Base. He began filming "A Gathering of Eagles" in May of that year.
1967: An early photograph of the Ehrling Bergquist military medical clinic in Bellevue. The clinic has served Offutt Air Force Base since 1966 and was remodeled in 2013, including a grand staircase, larger physical therapy and mental health areas, and a more private mammography waiting area.
1970: The world's largest aircraft at that time, the C5 Galaxy was displayed as part of the open house for civilian visitors at Offutt Air Force Base.
1989: A conference room in the SAC underground command post at Offutt Air Force Base. Strategic Air Command would be formally disestablished in 1992, but Offutt would remain the headquarters for the new United States Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM).
1992: The Strategic Air Command Memorial Chapel holds a Sunday morning service as a reminder of those who have given their service and those who have died during the Command's 46-year history. Founded in in 1946, the command was dissolved in a ceremony at Offutt Air Force Base.
1997: OPPD worker Craig Azure of Ashland holds a power line up across Platteview Road near Highway 50 so that an Albatross airplane can fit under it. After SAC was dissolved, the museum moved into a new indoor facility in 1998. Airplanes were moved from their old location at Offutt Air Force Base to their new and current home near Mahoney State Park off I-80.
2000: The parade grounds gazebo at Offutt is dedicated in honor of Airman 1st Class Warren T. Willis, who was killed in an aircraft accident the previous December.
2000: President Bill Clinton speaks at a rally at Offutt Air Force Base.
2003: More than 300 anti-nuclear protesters gather outside Kinney Gate at Offutt Air Force Base. The rally was part of a weekend of protest against nuclear weapons, and was organized in response to an extensive nuclear arsenal review being held at the base.
2006: Vice President Dick Cheney greets service men and women following a speech at Offutt Air Force Base's Minuteman missile in Bellevue.
2012: Dignitaries clap along to an armed forces medley as ground is broken for the new U. S. Strategic Command Headquarters at Offutt Air Force Base. From left: Neb. Rep. Adrian Smith, Rep. Lee Terry, Neb. Governor Dave Heineman, General C. Robert Kehler, Commander USStratcom, Sen. Ben Nelson, Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, and Mayor of Bellevue, Rita Sanders.
2012: Chris Shotton created this thank you message to the airmen and troops flying in and out of Offutt Air Force Base. Employees of area Walmart stores have been writing giant messages in fields near Highway 370 for years.
2013: Senior Airman Kevin Chapman works the desk at the new Public Health Clinic located in the Ehrling Bergquist military medical clinic.
2014: The new MERLIN SS200m Aircraft Birdstrike Avoidance Radar System, with the control tower in the background, photographed at Offutt Air Force Base. The system was moved here from Afghanistan in order to help detect large flocks and prevent damages to aircraft from bids, which cost the Air Force millions of dollars each year.
2015: An aerial photo from late February of the construction site for StratCom's new $1.2 billion headquarters at Offutt Air Force Base. Despite numerous delays and setbacks, the building would be completed in 2018, six years after construction began. StratCom would then spend the next year outfitting the structure with more than $600 million worth of high-tech communications and security gear.
2016: President Barack Obama arrives in Omaha after landing at Offutt Air Force Base. While in Omaha, Obama met with the family of Kerrie Orozco, visited a local teacher, and addressed a crowd of about 8,000 at Baxter Arena.
2019: This year, U.S. Strategic Command unveiled a new Command and Control Facility located at Offutt Air Force Base. The "battle deck," shown here, features computer workstations, soundproofing, and the ability to connect instantly to the White House and Pentagon.
2019: Luke Thomas and Air Force Tech Sgt. Vanessa Vidaurre at a flooded portion of Offutt Air Force Base. In March, historic flooding included breaches of two levees protecting the base from the Missouri River.