Visitors to Fort Jackson now will have to be escorted or be vetted by the FBI and receive credentials to have access to the post, although the rules allow flexibility for some large events, according to the garrison commander.
Previously, visitors simply had to show their driver’s licenses to visit the fort’s water park, museums, golf course and other destinations. The restricted access is to comply with new Army regulations intended to protect soldiers and their families from attacks such as the one in Ottawa, Canada, last month in which a lone gunman killed a soldier guarding that country’s National War Memorial, Col. Mike Graese said.
“We’re taking prudent measures to ensure that soldiers and family members have proper protection,” he said.
However, Graese said the new rules allow flexibility for some large public events on installations, such as Fort Jackson family days on Wednesdays and graduations on Thursdays. Those events draw about 6,000 people to the post each week.
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For now, the commander said, visitors to those events can continue to enter with only a driver’s license as the installation tries to develop measures to meet the new Army regulations.
“This policy is still being developed,” Graese said.
On other days of the week, visitors will be required to be screened, he said. Temporary credentials can be issued on the spot through the Physical Security Office at the fort’s main gate on Forest Drive and Interstate 77, after visitors’ names are checked through the FBI National Crime Database.
The lightly traveled and well maintained roads in the fort are popular with cyclists, who flock there by the hundreds on after-work or weekend rides. Many were surprised when soldiers at the main gate began refusing them access without a Department of Defense ID last week.
Brian Curran, owner of Outspokin Bicycles on Devine Street, said most of the cyclists he has spoken with on the issue “will do whatever we need to do to be able to ride there. ... It’s hard to imagine a better place to ride in an urban area.”
Curran said he was given a 60-day pass last week after passing a background check. Some others got five-day passes last week, as fort officials worked to come up with a formal new policy.
Some local high schools also use the fort’s golf course for practice and tournaments. Richland Northeast athletics director Gary Fulmer said he was not aware of the new policy, but because men’s golf doesn’t start until spring, applying for and receiving credentials shouldn’t be a problem.
For now there is no charge for the background checks, Graese said. However, the commander urged visitors to be patient as wrinkles in the new policy are ironed out.
“Expect delays,” he said.
Those who frequent the fort can apply for an extended pass for up to a year. For instance, families who use the water park could be issued credentials during the season the park is open.
Once vetted and cleared, individuals will be issued credentials allowing them access. The credentials must be carried by the visitor at all times while they are on the fort.
Military contractors should visit Physical Security at Building 4394 along Strom Thurmond Boulevard from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday for credentials.
“We apologize for the delay as we process the surge of requests within our limited resources,” the fort said in a news release Wednesday. “Thank you in advance for your understanding and cooperation.”
Staff writer Joey Holleman contributed to this report.