Force protection and gate operations

377th Air Base Wing commander Col. Richard Gibbs talks about Kirtland gate operations and security.

Col. Richard Gibbs, 377th Air Base Wing Commander

Col. Richard Gibbs, 377th Air Base Wing Commander

KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. --

Kirtland is a unique place. The 377th Air Base Wing and our many mission partners are conducting missions vital to national defense. Our units have authority and responsibilities across five different major commands, multiple combatant commands and the Departments of Energy. Their responsibilities to our nation are immense. At the same time, our responsibilities at the 377th to enable those missions and to carry out our own are equally imperative. Force protection is first among these responsibilities. 

Protecting Team Kirtland, our families and our visitors falls squarely on our wing, and on my shoulders as installation commander. It is something that I will never overlook when it comes to exercising due diligence. And it can never be adjusted or relaxed as a matter of simple convenience. This means when I have to close a gate, or alter the configuration, or restrict the access or operating hours in the interest of security, you can bet I will do exactly what is necessary and nothing less. 

I understand and appreciate the amount of patience required due to the inconvenience caused by our alterations to gate operations in recent months. Improving force protection measures, including our equipment, configuration, and steps for authentication, were essential to remaining state of the art. We have made changes to ensure robust safeguards are in place. 

The initiatives to improve our security were driven by a series of incidents. Since 2016, we had several base intrusions, during which our people were put at risk. We have two gates, Wyoming and Gibson, that are an abrupt end for two of Albuquerque’s major thoroughfares. These access points needed improvements to adjust to these conditions and redirect unintentional approaches to our gates. 

Now that necessary upgrades have been made, expanded operating hours and a more consistent schedule can be expected. However, random and deliberate implementation of increased security measures is something that will always be necessary. While the frequency of changes in gate operations should be less going forward, don’t think that it won’t be necessary from time to time. Our Defenders will maintain their strategic advantage and preparedness. You can count on that. Convenience and predictability will not always be possible. 

When force protection or other factors cause us to change the traffic pattern, I expect cooperation from every member of Team Kirtland—and that we all conduct ourselves accordingly. I was recently at our Wyoming Gate the morning a serious traffic accident caused the gate to close. I stood next to our Defenders as an angry driver shouted obscenities at us while making a U-turn outside the gate. I don’t need to explain that this is purely unacceptable. 

Our Security Forces are the tip of the spear in safeguarding each one of us who live and work on Kirtland. Treat them accordingly. Additionally, we should all keep in mind that the people who would do us harm are not looking for a person in uniform as their target. Our experience with force protection shows that the bad guys don’t make a distinction between military and civilian. We all enjoy, trust in, and count on the same protection from our Security Forces, and they deserve our gratitude and respect.