Distracted Guard, Gate Malfunction Allowed Intruder to Board Aircraft at Joint Base Andrews

The C-40 B/C.
The C-40 B/C provides safe, comfortable and reliable transportation for U.S. leaders to locations around the world. (Courtesy photo)

The U.S. Air Force says a series of missteps at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, led to a Feb. 4 breach at the installation in which an unauthorized civilian was able to board a C-40 Clipper transport aircraft on the flight line.

The service on Thursday released a 23-page Inspector General review into the incident. It concluded that a "distracted" Security Forces airman overlooked the proper procedures to vet the man as he came on base. That was compounded when a gate malfunction allowed the man to walk onto the flight line, where other personnel also failed to stop him.

The unauthorized individual "just wanted to see airplanes," Lt. Gen. Sami Said, the Air Force's inspector general, said of the man's intentions, adding that officials do not believe he planned to harm Air Force personnel.

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The Security Forces airman, a member of the 316th Security Forces Squadron, could not recall whether he had asked the individual for any type of identification, according to the IG report.

Video footage from the gate entry point could not verify whether the individual presented ID.

"Command actions have been taken against the airman [who was] at the gate," Said told reporters during a phone call prior to the report's release. He would not comment further on the action but added, "There should have been absolutely nothing that gave the airman the impression this person was authorized on base."

The service said the man entered the Virginia Gate entrance at 7:16 a.m. and wandered the base for more than five hours. He parked his car at the base commissary and made a trip to the base food court. He did not meet anyone, the report states.

Air Force officials said the individual had never been to the base before, despite the fact he was able to make his way around with relative ease. "There is an element of luck," according to Said, "but he stumbled around for several hours."

The man ultimately made his way into the passenger lounge for a few minutes before accessing the flight line itself, Said added.

According to the report, an unidentified Andrews personnel member saw the man walking around the lounge and asked, "Can I help you?"

The personnel member escorted the man to the exit door; the man waited across the street as if he "was waiting for a ride," the report states.

He then headed toward the flight line, which he accessed through a partially open gate. The gate had previously been reported as having multiple malfunctions, according to Said.

"Had the gate closed as it should have, he couldn't have accessed the flight line," he said.

Members of the 89th Aerial Port Squadron saw the man walking toward a row of aircraft, where the C-40 was parked. And two crew members were on board the C-40 conducting communications training, according to the IG report.

The man boarded the C-40 and headed for the back of the aircraft. Neither of the crew members communicated with the man, and he quickly exited.

The members of the 89th and the crew on board the C-40 at first mistook the man as a contractor because of his attire. He was wearing dark pants, a dark jacket and black high-top sneakers and carrying a backpack -- common for civilian contractors who work on base, the report notes.

But the personnel also noticed that the individual "looked like he didn't fit" because he was wearing a bright red-pink hat with balls on top meant to resemble mouse ears, Said added.

Someone then called the Base Defense Operations Center. The man was eventually apprehended by Security Forces and handed off to local law enforcement.

The review notes that everyone who saw the man on the flight line or aboard the aircraft should have asked to see a restricted area badge.

Andrews is best known for its special airlift mission to transport VIPs such as the president and vice president. It is home to the VC-25 aircraft, popularly known as "Air Force One."

While the call sign can apply to any aircraft when the commander in chief is onboard, the special airlift mission, overseen by the 89th Airlift Wing, includes the VC-25A, a modified Boeing 747; the C-32A, a modified Boeing 757; the C-37A, a Gulfstream V; the C-37B, a Gulfstream 550; and the C-40, an upgraded Boeing 737-700 business jet.

"Air Force One or the multiple airplanes [that can carry the president], and everything that is housed within that area of the flight line was never in question," Said stated.

The hangar that holds Air Force One is nearly a mile away from the flight line the man accessed and has multiple, scrupulous layers of security, Said emphasized. "There is no way he could have gotten through that," he said.

In an interview with law enforcement, the man said he had consumed alcohol prior to entering the base. It is not clear whether that was a factor in his decision to enter the installation, Said stated.

A separate investigation conducted by the Air Force Office of Special Investigations noted that the man was unemployed and likely living out of his car.

In February, Acting Air Force Secretary John Roth and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles "CQ" Brown launched a comprehensive review into base safety and security protocols across the service following the breach at Andrews.

Said stated that the event was isolated, adding that the Air Force did not find indications of a systemic security issue plaguing the force.

The report notes that while additional base surveillance would not necessarily have prevented the unauthorized entry, a vehicle or personnel tracking system -- which Andrews does not currently have -- could provide more situational awareness in the future.

Andrews suspended its Trusted Traveler Program after the incident. Normally, individuals with a valid Common Access Card who are pre-cleared with escort authority can bring up to 10 people with them in a vehicle without the base having to vet the accompanying visitors' backgrounds.

The program is still suspended, Maj. Jessica Tait, spokeswoman for the 11th Wing, said in an email Thursday.

-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.

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