LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The Arkansas National Guard will reopen six of the 10 storefront recruiting stations that were closed after a recruiting center in Chattanooga, Tennessee, was attacked last July.
Lt. Col. Joel Lynch told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that Army Guard stations in Little Rock, Jacksonville, Conway, Fort Smith and Fayetteville will reopen this summer with enhanced security. The Arkansas Air National Guard will reopen its recruiting station in Jacksonville.
Army Guard centers in Jonesboro and Sherwood and Air Guard centers in Fayetteville and Fort Smith will remain closed.
Four Marines and a sailor, including Staff Sgt. David Wyatt, a graduate of Russellville High School, were killed at a naval reserve center and recruiting station in Chattanooga July 16. In 2009, a Little Rock recruiting station was targeted in a similar attack that killed one Army private and wounded another.
After the Chattanooga attack several governors, including Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, ordered the storefront centers in strip malls to be shut down, but some would likely have been shut down anyway because of budget cuts, officials have said.
"The truth of the matter is these probably would've closed regardless," said Lt. Col. Chad Higginbotham, recruiting battalion commander. "We knew the budget cuts were coming, so we've kept those open in mostly metro areas because they have access to that much more of our target population."
The Guard has developed a series of security improvements to ensure recruiters' safety and, under Hutchinson's order, hundreds of guardsmen received special training on the use of firearms at Guard installations in the state and Arkansas soldiers are now allowed to carry firearms while on regular duty at state installations.
Also, some recruiters will be certified to carry weapons at some storefront stations.
The Guard has also installed bullet-resistant panels, surveillance cameras, controlled-access mechanisms and other safety features at the stations that are reopening.
"We want to be comfortable that we're providing the safest work environment possible for our recruiters," Higginbotham said.