Category Archives: Military

State senators fret about radical Islamists

Senate Republicans fretted Tuesday about radical Islamists, political correctness and whether Tennessee National Guard officials are being too cautious with their new gun policy following the July 16 slaying of five servicemen in Chattanooga, reports the Times-Free Press.

“We do have an enemy and the enemy is radical Islam and they have declared war on our military,” said Sen. Janice Bowling, R-Tullahoma.

Bowling’s comments came during a joint hearing by the State Government Committee and Transportation and Safety Committee on Gov. Bill Haslam’s move to allow Guard members with state handgun permits to carry at armories and other facilities following the attack.

Senators heard from Tennessee Adj. Gen. Max Haston on his steps to allow Guard members with state-issued handgun permits to carry personal weapons at state facilities. The new policy also permits select guardsmen to carry federal firearms at U.S. military installations where they are located.

Also testifying was David Purkey, assistant commissioner over Homeland Security in the state Department of Safety. He told lawmakers the agency has issued 50 threat warning assessments to government agencies so far this year. Among them was a March threat involving military recruiting centers, which did not materialize, Purkey noted.

…The FBI for now continues to call Abdulazeez a “homegrown violent extremist” and has stopped short of calling him a terrorist or linking it to extreme religious beliefs.

That had some lawmakers, including Sen. Mark Green, R-Clarksville, a physician and former Special Operations member, upset because they say it was a terror attack. The five slain servicemen all deserve Medals of Honor, Green said.

Some Republican lawmakers also didn’t like the idea that under the new handgun-carry regulations Guard members will conceal their weapons and not openly carry at armories, recruiting centers and U.S. Air Force facilities in Tennessee. Haston said he doesn’t want distractions caused by open carrying. Moreover, a number will be wearing gun belts so would-be attackers won’t know who is armed and who is not, he pointed out.

…Green, meanwhile, said he believes any Guard member with a military ID should be given a state-issued handgun-carry permit and not have to undergo the eight-hour gun safety course.

But Haston said less than a third of Guard members have specific training on handgun use and safety. The state training should cut down on problems like accidental discharges, he said. Moreover, Haston noted, the required Tennessee Bureau of Investigation background check for permit holders is good, as well.

The adjutant general cited the 2013 case of a National Guard recruiter who drew his handgun and shot three superior officers. He said that between the TBI background check, annual health assessments that include a mental health component and a “buddy system” where members are paired with a colleagues, most problems should be addressed.

Biden to attend service for Chattanooga shooting victims

Vice President Joe Biden will travel to Chattanooga this weekend to honor the five servicemen killed on July 16, according to the Times-Free Press.

Biden will join Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus and Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke at the Saturday memorial event at McKenzie Arena.

“I am honored to join Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter and Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus for a special military memorial to show our gratitude for the four Marines and sailor who sacrificed their lives in the line of duty on July 16, 2015,” Berke said in a statement through his office. “This is an incredible opportunity to stand together to support our military and show the world we are ‘Chattanooga Strong.'”

The event will honor the four Marines killed — Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Sullivan, Lance Cpl. Squire K. “Skip” Wells, Sgt. Carson Holmquist and Staff Sgt. David Wyatt — and U.S. Navy Petty Officer Randall Smith.

The memorial starts at 2 p.m. Saturday at the arena, at 720 E. Fourth St. The service comes one day before the one-month anniversary of the shooting that killed the men.

TN National Guard seeks $18M in security upgrades

The Tennessee National Guard is installing limited security measures at its facilities across the state, but providing a high level of security upgrades, including high-grade fencing at facilities without it, would cost about $18.2 million, Adjutant Gen. Max Haston told a state legislative committee Monday.

Further from the Commercial Appeal:

Haston said that 31 TNG recruiters who work out of seven “storefront” recruiting centers across the state will not be moved back into those centers until special bullet-resistant glass and barriers designed to block vehicles from crashing through are installed. After five members of the U.S. military were shot and killed by a lone gunman at a Chattanooga reserve center last month, the Guard recruiters were pulled out of their storefront locations and into the nearest National Guard armory, where Haston said they remain.

The top military official in state government gave a House committee his first report on security measures taken at TNG facilities in the wake of the July 16 shootings, including his directive last week allowing Guard personnel with Tennessee handgun-carry permits to go armed in state-owned armories. He said special camera-phone devices are being installed or are on order for 21 armories, and officials are working toward adding reinforced glass at the seven storefront recruiting centers, which the state leases in privately owned shopping centers.

Haston said the $18.2 million estimate is for a higher level of security upgrades at all facilities not already “hardened” with crash-proof fencing, security monitors and other measures that exist at facilities such as the Air National Guard bases in Knoxville, Memphis and Nashville and at TNG headquarters in Nashville.

“I have absolutely no illusions that we are going to get a windfall and we will upgrade as funds become available,” Haston told the committee.

Note: See also WPLN WPLN.

Haston says the guard will add a clear Mylar coating to the windows to make them more bullet resistant. They’re also installing camera systems. Other than the cost, Haston says those were easy decisions.

But allowing recruiters to carry a mix of government and personally-owned weapons was a step he didn’t really want to take. Democrats at a legislative hearing asked what if a recruiter turns out to be unstable. Haston said that was considered.

“That is a grave concern of mine,” he said about the prospect of a uniformed attack. “However, we have weighed the costs, and we feel that the balance of justice is more to the other than it is having somebody that is mentally deranged.”

The Guard still has some details to work out, such as whether recruiters will be able to carry a gun in their federally-issued vehicle.

TN National Guard changes rules on carrying government guns, personal pistols

News release from Tennessee National Guard
NASHVILLE – Maj. Gen. Max Haston, Tennessee’s Adjutant General, today announced that the Military Department has taken steps to increase the security of its personnel and facilities to include allowing Tennessee Army & Air National Guard members with valid Tennessee State Handgun Carry Permits to carry handguns at State Armories and facilities.

Haston’s decision follows Governor Bill Haslam’s directive, issued earlier this month in the aftermath of the deadly shootings in Chattanooga, to review current Guard personnel who are authorized to be armed in the performance of their duties, and identify and arm Guardsmen where necessary to protect themselves, citizens and Guard facilities.

“We have been very deliberate in making the decision to arm our Tennessee National Guard,” said Haston. “This is not a step that we take lightly, but it is apparent that military personnel have been targeted and the protection of our Soldiers and Airmen is of utmost importance. Physical security and risk assessment is something that we continually do as part of our day to day obligations.”

Haston also announced that selected Guard personnel working on Federal facilities would be allowed to carry federally issued handguns.

“Federal law prohibits carrying a personally owned weapon on a Federal facility,” said Haston. “Therefore, selected personnel working on Federal property will draw and carry a federally issued firearm for protection.”

Governor Haslam also directed Maj. Gen. Haston to review security policies and procedures at National Guard armories, storefront recruiting facilities and other installations to ensure the safety of Guardsmen, citizens and property.

“Operational security prohibits me from detailing other measures taken to increase the protection of our personnel and facilities, but as I said before, the protection of our Soldiers, Airmen and their families is of the utmost importance and we are doing everything possible to insure their safety.” Haston said.

Under the direction of Governor Haslam, Maj. Gen. Haston immediately moved Army National Guard recruiters from storefront locations to nearby armories after a lone gunman attacked two Chattanooga military facilities, killing four Marines and one Sailor on July 16, 2015. The temporary move allows for Guard personnel to evaluate what measures can be taken to enhance the security of these locations.

“The Military Department will continually evaluate security measures at both its state and federal facilities based on threat information obtained from numerous agencies to insure that our Soldiers, Airmen, civilian employees and their families are safe and secure.” said Haston.

Veteran senators prod Haslam on military gun permits

(UPDATE/NOTE: The governor was asked about this at a news conference today. His comment is below.)
News release sent via Senate Republican Caucus
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (August 3, 2015) – Following the targeted attacks on military installations in Chattanooga on July 16 that resulted in the deaths of four US Marines and a US Navy sailor, the Tennessee Senate Veterans Caucus formerly requested that Governor Bill Haslam issue an executive order that would recognize active military service members’ identification cards as Tennessee Carry Permits while they serve in their active service roles for the Tennessee National Guard.

The Governor initially developed an expedited process in response to the attack. As weeks have passed, Tennessee Senators and Veterans Rusty Crowe (R-Johnson City), Dolores Gresham (R-Somerville), and Mark Green (R-Clarksville) are concerned that our military men and women are left vulnerable as this process fails to match the immediacy of the threat.

“The swift call for Tennessee’s Adjutant General to boost the security of our state’s National Guard facilities, even with weapons, at his discretion is applauded,” observed TN Senator and US Army Combat Veteran Mark Green. “Additional action must be taken to allow our military men and women an opportunity to defend themselves. The evidence of organizations such as ISIS specifically naming soldiers and their families as targets warrants immediate action, not a shortened process.”

To date, Governor Haslam has, in addition to the July 19 directive ordering Adjutant General Major General Max Haston to “review current Guard personnel who are authorized to be armed in the performance of their duties, and identify and arm additional Guardsmen where necessary to protect themselves, citizens, and Guard facilities,” temporarily relocated all seven of Tennessee’s National Guard recruiting centers to local armories.

Governors in seven states have acted in their roles of the states’ Commander-in-Chief to order their Guardsmen be armed while on active duty, eliminating gun-free zones that currently exist in Tennessee’s facilities. Florida, Indiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Texas and Wisconsin have enacted through executive order the policy change for their National Guard military installations.
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Fleischmann seeks Purple Heart for servicemen slain in Chattanooga

News release from U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann
WASHINGTON− On Monday evening, Rep. Chuck Fleischmann introduced House Resolution 383, expressing the sense of Congress that the Marines and Sailors killed or wounded in the recent attack at the Navy Operational Support Center and Marine Corps Reserve Center and the Armed Forces Career Center in Chattanooga, Tennessee deserve the appropriate award of the Purple Heart.

While serving their great nation, these brave men were killed on American soil by a violent extremist. Rep. Fleischmann’s resolution was signed by the entire Tennessee delegation and supported by a bipartisan group of 72 original cosponsors. After the resolution was introduced to Congress, Rep. Chuck Fleischmann released the following statement.

“Chattanooga and America lost five exceptional service members to a horrendous attack on our home soil. These men proudly served their country, and several made the ultimate sacrifice while braving fire in order to save others. With a broad bipartisan coalition, I introduced legislation expressing our belief that the Marines and Sailors lost or wounded in that attack are deserving of the Purple Heart and should be awarded appropriately. ”

The Purple Heart is a combat decoration awarded to members of the United States Armed Forces who are wounded in combat or posthumously to the next of kin to the military individual killed in combat.

No Haslam decision on Guardsmen bringing guns to work

While the state’s handgun-carry permitting process is being accelerated for Tennessee National Guardsmen, Gov. Bill Haslam’s office acknowledges the directive does not yet address whether Guard personnel can bring their firearms to work.

Further from the Times-Free Press:

“It’s an issue still being worked on at this point,” Haslam spokeswoman Laura Herzog said Thursday in an email.

Haslam on Wednesday announced he had moved the state’s seven storefront recruiting centers to more secure facilities in National Guard armories.

But because at least some are co-located with federal military installations or on federally owned property, there are legal issues involved. The U.S. military does not allow firearms except for designated personnel, administration officials have previously said.

The Tennessee Firearms Association said the governor’s plans say “nothing about arming the Tennessee military facilities to repel future terrorist attacks on those facilities. It does not indicate any plans to prepare the Tennessee military to respond to possible terrorist attacks at non-military civilian targets” and eliminate what the group calls “gun-free zones” vulnerable to “terrorist attacks.”

Note: Scott Walker, governor of Arizona and a Republican presidential candidate, has issued an executive order declaring National Guardsmen can take guns to work. Similar actions have been taken by some other governors, including those in Arizona and Texas.

…A day after the Chattanooga shooting, a Navy recruiter in Gainesville, Ga., accidentally shot himself in the leg at a recruiting center, WSB-TV in Atlanta reported.

The Tennessee Firearms Association press release is below:
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Haslam takes first steps toward revising military security

News release from the governor’s office:
NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, along with Adjutant General Max Haston and Safety and Homeland Security Commissioner Bill Gibbons, announced today temporary security measures and an accelerated handgun carry permit process for members of the military.

Following Haslam’s directive in the wake of the tragic shooting in Chattanooga last week, the Tennessee National Guard, starting on July 20, temporarily repositioned its soldiers in storefront recruiting locations to local National Guard armories, allowing the review of the storefront facilities and what additional security measures are necessary to improve security at these locations.

The Department of Safety and Homeland Security streamlined the handgun permit application process for members of the military, and the department is working with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, which conducts criminal background checks on all handgun permit applicants, to help with the process.
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U.S. Capitol flags lowered to honor Chattanooga victims

WASHINGTON (AP) — The flags at the U.S. Capitol were lowered to half-staff on Tuesday to honor the five service members killed in Chattanooga, Tennessee, last week.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner said in a statement that as Congress returned to session on Tuesday, the flags were lowered for the Navy sailor and four Marines killed.

McConnell said America continues to mourn the men, and the thoughts of the Senate are with their families and loved ones as well as all service members who serve around the world.

The shooting occurred at two military facilities.

Separately, Rep. Mac Thornberry of Texas called on President Barack Obama to lower flags to half-staff to honor the service members. Thornberry is the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.

Note: Previous post HERE.

The shooting occurred at two military facilities

Armed civilians guarding military recruiters

Several armed civilian volunteers stood guard with their own guns outside armed forces recruiting offices in Murfreesboro, according to the Daily News Journal.

“We are out here to protect these wonderful men and women in these offices who are not allowed to protect themselves,” Matt Woodard said as he clutched his M-4 civilian rifle, and referring to a ban on military personnel going armed on military installations, which include recruiting offices on Old Fort Parkway in Murfreesboro.

Murfreesboro police spokeswoman Amy Norville said “we have not, to my knowledge, been asked to approve or ban (the armed civilians’) presence.

“That is private property and as long as the shopkeepers or customers of that building do not have a problem with them they are OK to be there and we have not received any calls to dispatch regarding them,” Norville said in an email to The Daily News Journal. “As long as they are not threatening anyone they are within their rights to be there.”

Woodard joined hundreds of similar demonstrations across the United States after the mass shootings in Chattanooga on Thursday that left five servicemen dead.

…Several people stopped by the recruiting center to thank the volunteers, and Woodard said they have been in contact with Murfreesboro Police.

Woodard added that he hopes Haslam looks into changing security policies that would allow servicemen to arm themselves at recruiting centers.

“If there is an ounce of common sense in this nation, there should be change,” Woodard said.