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Marine killings raise recruitment center security concerns

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A shooting rampage Thursday at a Marine recruitment center in Chattanooga Tennessee that left four Marines dead has many people asking questions about the safety of recruiting sites.

Mohammad Youssuf Abdulazeez began his shooting rampage at a recruiting center in a Chattanooga strip mall. He unleashed a barrage of bullets from an AK-47-style weapon and injured a recruiter, law enforcement officials said.

Abdulazeez then went to a Navy operational support center seven miles away and opened fire again, killing four Marines and seriously injuring a sailor, a Pentagon official said.

Police killed the gunman. He was born in Kuwait and had Jordanian citizenship, two law enforcement officials said. 

With recruiting stations considered easy military targets for terrorists with recruiters being unarmed, some people are concerned that it's a deadly combination that could lead to more tragedy.

However, Marine officials said there are no plans to change procedures nationwide and no plan to call for recruiters to be armed.

April Valdez, a civilian employee who works for the Army's recruiting headquarters in Jacksonville said employees undergo active shooter training to protect themselves and others, even though no weapons are kept in recruitment centers.

"Weapons are prohibited in recruiting centers. Our men and women are working in an open environment. We have to get young men and women to feel comfortable and when they come talk to us about joining America's team. So no, we don't have weapons in our center," Valdez said. 

But that rule is troubling for some, including former Jacksonville Sheriff's Office chief and homeland security expert Rick Parker.

"The soldier, the Marine, the airman, the sailor, they are the best that the armed forces can produce. The very least we can do is allow them to defend themselves," Parker said. "(There's a) disconnect between policy and practice. The practice is that recently we've been warned too many times to count that, based on intelligence sources, (terrorists) are targeting the military, targeting law enforcement. We've heard about that for months, and now we see it play out for real."

Elected leaders and other officials are saying the same thing.

U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul Sr., R-Texas, who chairs the House Committee on Homeland Security, said Friday at McDill Air Force Base in Tampa, that a closer look must be taken at security measure at off-base offices like recruiting centers.

"I would think, particularly in light of the events that occurred yesterday, that recruitment centers and training centers need to heighten their sense of security as well, including the idea of having armed personnel to defend themselves," McCaul said.

The people who work inside those facilities said they do take precautions.

"Well, recruiters are trained to look for suspicious packages or pieces of property that don't belong in this facility, and so forth. We can't work in a barricaded type of atmosphere; we have to be able to be out there talking to young people about joining America's team," Valdez said.

Some officials, including U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., are saying that those precautions aren't enough. 

"We all mourn the senseless loss of life in Chattanooga. Sadly, the violence there yesterday was the latest in a string of recent shootings at stateside U.S. military facilities. We absolutely must take steps to increase our domestic protection," Nelson said.

The Army's top officer, Gen. Raymond Odierno, said security at military recruiting and reserve centers will be reviewed, but it's too early to say whether the facilities should have security guards or other increased protection.

He said arming personnel in those offices could cause more problems than it might solve.
 


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