Monday kicks off a brand new month, and aboard Naval Air Station Pensacola, a return to a previously-used traffic pattern and an exercise aimed at beefing up security.
Beginning February 1st, visitor traffic will be routed to the entrance on Blue Angel Parkway. Commander and Executive Officer Shawn Dominguez says that includes all unescorted visitors going to the most popular attractions aboard base: the National Naval Aviation Museum, Pensacola Lighthouse, and Fort Barrancas.
“Visitors who do not possess valid [Department of Defense] identification will be required to enter the installation via the west gate,” said Dominguez.
The Aviation Museum plays host to nearly one million visitors per year.
The access change is among directives issued by Navy Sec. Ray Mabus. The Blue Angel Parkway gate will get additional personnel and facilities, as the Museum, Lighthouse and Fort Barrancas are being turned into what Dominguez calls a “controlled area.”
“It’s going to expedite the procedures for their getting on base. They’re not going to have to be vetted at that time,” Dominguez says. “They’re just going to show a civilian driver’s license, a passport, some type of ID. We’ll have internal checkpoints to ensure that they don’t venture any further than those three areas.”
Those going to other activities and tourist stops, such as the annual Blue Angels homecoming show, Barrancas National Cemetery, and the golf course, will continue to use the main gate on Navy Boulevard.
Monday also marks the kickoff of the Navy’s annual “Solid Curtain-Citadel Shield,” which is scheduled to run through February 12th. The drill has its roots in the 9/11 attacks, in testing the Navy’s anti-terrorism and force protection capabilities. The fact that it begins on the same day as the new access pattern, says XO Dominguez, is purely coincidental.
“This is a Fleet Forces Command exercise, designed to enhance training and readiness of our naval security force personnel,” says Dominguez. “The first week is more of a local exercise, then the second week is when we go nationwide.”
The exercises are aimed at testing overall security response, with an emphasis on much of the PPR – Previous Planned Responses. Commander Shawn Dominguez is asking for the public’s indulgence and cooperation during the 12-day operation.
Commander Shawn Dominguez is also asking for the public’s indulgence and cooperation during the 12-day operation.
“There might be some slight traffic delays at times,” Dominguez says. “At times you may see the front gate, the back gate shut down momentarily, then re-open again at a later period. And you might see some security personnel in battle dress running through the installation.”
Dominguez says the number one priority, for Commanding Officer Capt. Keith Hoskins on down, is the safety and security of everyone working, living or visiting NAS Pensacola.