Air Force Academy Incident Highlights Heightened Security at Bases

A bomb-sniffing dog triggered a lockdown at the Air Force Academy's north gate Wednesday night in a false alarm that highlights ongoing heightened security at bases in the Pikes Peak region.

Detection dogs, more guards and tighter identification checks were ordered for military bases last spring as U.S. Northern Command in Colorado Springs reacted to increasing concerns of lone-wolf terror attacks inspired by the Islamic State group.

Those precautions, ordered May 8, have led to longer lines at gates and a string of false alarms that have put each of the region's five military installations on lockdown since the heightened security was put in place.

Academy spokesman Meade Warthen on Thursday said he couldn't discuss details of the latest academy incident.

The academy did say that bomb technicians from Peterson Air Force Base checked over the suspicious vehicle and found no cause for alarm. The north gate was closed for more than two hours.

The military also won't discuss what can cause bases to lock down.

"We can close the gate for any number of reasons," Warthen said.

The academy is the most open of the bases in the region, allowing visitors on the campus without escort from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week. Visitors are required to bring identification and submit to vehicle searches.

While academy visitors can see the campus, the gift shop and the famous chapel, their travel through the school is limited by several internal checkpoints and gates that bar access to more secure areas of the school.

Security concerns also led to closure of a stretch of the Santa Fe trail through the campus. El Paso County has brokered a deal with the academy to reopen that 7-mile trail segment this summer with beefed-up security.

Other bases in the Pikes Peak region keep a tighter watch on guests. At Peterson and Schriever Air Force bases and Fort Carson, visitors are required to get a pass and undergo a background check before admittance.

Visitors are generally not welcome at Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station.

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