The heightened level of security provided by Fort Indiantown Gap’s new access control point couldn’t have come at a better time.
With the FBI saying the Israeli-Hamas war has raised the potential for attack here in the United States, the ACP enhances security by requiring FTIG visitors to be identified before gaining access to the military installation.
A dedication and ribbon-cutting ceremony was held by Gap officials at the ACP earlier Wednesday morning. The main ACP complex officially opened at 1 p.m. Wednesday.
“The gate actually came about because of the 2001 terrorist attacks in New York, right?” said Col. Kevin Potts, Fort Indiantown Gap base commander, during a post-ceremony press briefing. “So that was the genesis of this, and it just makes this opening or the dedication today more relevant with what is going on overseas. It just shows that it can happen at any point and we need to take our security very seriously, and I think this is a massive step forward.”
The Department of Defense had mandated tighter security at military installations, including ACPs, following the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
Construction of FTIG’s new entryway on Fisher Avenue near Biddle Drive had been delayed over the years for various reasons. The Gap is the last military installation in the nation to restrict access to the general public.
The ACP, which base officials said cost at least $13 million to construct, includes two approach and exit lanes each and three guard booths. To the right of the approach lanes, there’s a visitors center and a separate guard station behind the visitor center for all delivery vehicles to be searched and processed for admission to the base. A third building adjacent to the ACP will be the complex’s headquarters.
FTIG officials on Wednesday did not have an official project cost nor an estimate for the annual number of visitors expected to use the ACP. Whatever that number is, it’s sure to be large – last week it was announced that for the third time in four years, Fort Indiantown Gap was the busiest National Guard training center in the country.
All guests will need to show security personnel either a state- or federal-issued identification to create their visitor badge once the visitor center is operational in about four to six weeks. The badge will display the person’s name, photo and the date of their visit, according to Lt. Col. Adam Love, who gave the media and ceremony attendees a tour of the visitor center.
Love said guests should allow between 10 and 15 minutes for personnel to vet them through the national crime and terrorist databases and to process their visitor badge. Until the visitor center opens, guests will approach the ACP and show the guards state or federal identification before being granted base access.
“We’re going to do a traffic study over the next two weeks to see how many people actually pass through the gate to see if we have to do something different,” said Potts. “Whether that’s to allow people to exit at a different area or do something besides that. In two years, there’ll be another gate on the east side, but this is the only gate functioning at this point.”
Construction on the second ACP on the east end of the installation, near the intersection of Fisher Avenue and Quartermaster Road, is expected to begin in 2024 and take one year to complete. All 2,000-plus employees will enter and exit the base at that location once that gate is built.
“It will be an access point for employees, mainly employees on that side, but this one will be operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” said Potts about the main ACP. “When that one is built in ‘25 that one will be (open) Monday through Friday mainly for employees. It won’t have the visitors center and it won’t have the truck (access). All the trucks and all the visitors will come through this one (the main ACP).”
Potts noted the base is not closing, just limiting public access to it.
Non-employees can still access FTIG for a variety of functions. For example, the general public is invited to attend the base’s holiday tree lighting ceremony at 5 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 6, at the Arrowhead Club.
“We still want to be good partners with the community and have them come on post to be able to go to the club or attend ceremonies or events that take place here on post,” said Potts. “If you have a legitimate need or want on here — to go to the museum or go to the club — you’re more than welcome to come on post.”
Potts highlighted FTIG’s symbiotic partnership with the local community during the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
“This project is a result of careful and thorough planning,” he said. “It embodies the power of partnership. … Beyond the official partnerships, this also would not have been possible without the partnership of our neighbors. In the words of the great American poet Robert Frost, ”great fences make great neighbors,’ so to our community partners that are here today, I want to extend my personal thanks.”
Congressman Dan Meuser, 9th Congressional District, said military personnel not only serve the nation but local communities as well.
“So many of the National Guardsmen are local firefighters, police officers, state troopers, and they’re very active in the community and goes to show just how important this facility is to Pennsylvania since 1931,” said Meuser. “Actually, as I understand, it was officially named Fort Indiantown Gap in 1941. At that time, over 150,000 World War II soldiers were trained here before they went overseas. … Every war and every conflict since, training has taken place here.”
Commissioners Mike Kuhn and Jo Ellen Litz, who were in attendance for the ceremony, said afterwards that they appreciate the county’s partnership with Fort Indiantown Gap.
“In many ways, the Gap has been a great partner for us over the years,” said Kuhn. “I think that back in the mid-’70s, in addition to all of the training it has offered the military, it offered facilities for Vietnamese refugees who needed a place to stay and transition into American life. But like I said, so many different impacts that it makes on our local community. … The work that it does to train our soldiers and keep our country safe and the world a better place is priceless.”
“We are so fortunate to have the military training here, the Guard is terrific, and the national cemetery and the VA hospital on the other end of the county,” said Litz. “Lebanon County has the military as the largest employer and many people like me, one or both of their parents were in the military and trained here at Fort Indiantown Gap. When we hear the sound of freedom flying overhead, we know we are safe.”
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