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Marines Want More Protection for Recruiters' Bulletproof Cubicles

Marines congratulate Sgt. DeMonte R. Cheeley (far left) on receiving the Purple Heart Medal at a Jan. 26, 2016 ceremony, for injuries from a July 2015 attack at the Armed Forces Career Center in Chattanooga, Tenn. (US Marine Corps photo/Diamond Peden)
Marines congratulate Sgt. DeMonte R. Cheeley (far left) on receiving the Purple Heart Medal at a Jan. 26, 2016 ceremony, for injuries from a July 2015 attack at the Armed Forces Career Center in Chattanooga, Tenn. (US Marine Corps photo/Diamond Peden)

The Marine Corps is in the process of installing fiberglass cubicles strong enough to stop five shots from a military-issued rifle at recruiting centers around the country, but Marine Corps Recruiting Command may be in the market for even more ballistic protection.

According to a sources-sought solicitation distributed in May, the command is examining the possibility of topping the new fiberglass cubicles with bullet-resistant glass panels, 12 inches high and 18 inches wide. The front panels would have a protection rating of UL 5, making them strong enough to stop a bullet from a hunting rifle, while the side panels would be rated UL 3, capable of stopping handgun fire. The cubicles being installed are UL 8, the highest ballistic protection rating available.

The new safety measures come in the wake of a pair of 2015 terrorism-related mass shootings in Chattanooga, Tenn., that claimed the lives of four Marines and one sailor. On July 16, 2015, gunman Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez first opened fire on a Marine Corps recruiting center, where one recruiter, Sgt. Demonte Cheeley, was shot in the leg. Abdulazeez then traveled to a Navy Reserve center, where he killed four Marines and fatally wounded a sailor.

Killed in the shootings were Sgt. Carson Holmquist, Navy Logistics Specialist Second Class Randall Smith, Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Sullivan, Lance Cpl. Skip Wells, and Staff Sgt. David Wyatt. All, including Cheeley, would be honored with Purple Hearts after the FBI determined Abdulazeez was inspired by foreign terrorist organizations.

Last month, Sullivan and Wyatt posthumously received the Navy and Marine Corps Medal, the highest naval award for non-combat heroism, for bravely acting to protect other troops during the shooting rampage.

Following the violence, Marine leaders decided against arming recruiters, opting instead for a range of safety measures, including bulletproof glass inside and outside recruiting facilities and new safety training and protocols.

The Marine Corps spent about $2 million on bulletproof cubicles at 1,500 recruiting centers around the country and began installing them in November. It's not completely clear what concerns prompted the interest in additional bulletproof panels.

"We are currently researching ways we can further increase safety for our personnel, and one of the improvements in the initial development phase is an addition to the bullet resistant panels currently being installed," a command spokesman, Gunnery Sgt. Justin Kronenberg, told Military.com. "The Marine Corps Recruiting Command has an ongoing obligation to ensure our Marines and their guests are afforded the best protection we can provide, given the challenging and varied landscape of recruiting office spaces."

Kronenberg declined to say if any Marine recruiting offices had experienced threats or violent incidents since the Chattanooga shootings.

"We take the safety of our personnel and visitors to our recruiting offices very seriously, which is why we are constantly evaluating our force protection posture and seeking innovative ways to improve the security in our spaces," he said.

According to solicitation documents, the Marine Corps would need glass panels for more than 2,000 workstations, preferably with easy installation or the ability to retrofit onto existing structures. Recruiting command officials asked companies interested in the work to submit information and cost estimates by June 1.

Installation of the bulletproof cubicle walls will be complete by the end of 2019.

-- Hope Hodge Seck can be reached at hope.seck@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at@HopeSeck.

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