Civilian Contractors on US Military Bases Compromise the Safety of Military Members and Their Families

Earlier today, a young Marine picked up his child from daycare and returned to his home. He placed his toddler on the living room floor and went into the bedroom to change out of his uniform. Just like a real-life horror flick, a civilian man with long brown hair jumped out of the closed and started slashing this Marine with a knife. The Marine was able kick him in the groin, sending the intruder back into the closet, giving him enough time to run out and grab his daughter. The intruder ran from the home and has yet to be found. Officials expect that he is now off-base.

This incident happened in a supposedly secure base housing area in Beaufort, SC. While the gates of Laurel Bay housing are guarded by military police officers, civilian contractors are allowed on base to mow the yards of all houses and others handle all construction and housing repairs. In fact, the Marines have nothing to do with this housing area other than guarding the gates and providing regular MP service.

Military housing areas are notorious for their safety. They are generally self-contained, with gas stations, small shopping areas, daycare facilities and DOD schools. Until recently, base housing was owned and run by the military. Military members and their families took care of their own yards and small repairs, but over the past few years, the government has been paying contractors to take care of all aspects of base housing.

I lived on this specific base for the first six months after returning from Japan, and the yard workers were the most troubling of all the contractors. The workers were unkempt, assuredly underpaid for repetitive work. Yes, I found these men to be creepy for lack of a better word but more importantly, I didn’t appreciate strangers unaffiliated with the military hanging around my house where I kept my children during the day.

To make matters worse, on two different days, workers happened to see my in my house through the open blinds and they let out a wolf whistle. Afterwards they hung out by the window for a while pretending to weed whack the stones in front of our windows while looking directly into my eyes. I was appalled and my husband reported this to the housing office.

I later found out that some women with deployed husbands would let the whistlers in for a little “break”. It was a code I was unfamiliar with at the time. I found this out years later. While the stabbing that occurred this afternoon is on another level altogether, it shows how these civilian contractors can learn the patterns of the different families in base housing and use it to their advantage.

In Japan, most Marine Corps bases are guarded by Japanese guards, without a Marine MP in sight. While I’m sure most of these guards are good people, it’s a well known fact that some let their ID-cardless friends onto base so they can gamble. What’s more troubling to me, a former Marine, is how it would only take one guard to let a terrorist on base.

Japanese guards don’t have families on base. Their children aren’t in our daycare facilities. Other than their Japanese friends who, thanks to a US/Japan contract, make $50,000 a year flipping burgers at the Burger King on base, they have no ties to anything inside of the base other than a paycheck. While the Japanese are forgiving and kind individuals in general, there are a number who still adamantly protest American bases on Japanese soil, and that’s where the risk lies. The protests may be calm for the most part, but anything can happen, and these protests take place right outside of the gates.

Undoubtedly, this stabbing will ruffle some feathers and base higher-ups might even tighten up security on base, but I guarantee the corporation under contract with the government will bear no repercussions, as they were the lowest bidder. When it comes to the Marine Corps, the cheaper the better, no matter what the real cost is. Military members are not without our own faults and criminal incidences, but let us take care of our own areas as we have done for many years. Free lawn care is not worth the potential risk of being stabbed, harassed, or otherwise assaulted.

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