- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Regular visitors to and residents of Patuxent River Naval Air Station will no longer need decals on their vehicles to gain access to the base. Starting Monday, July 1, drivers will only need to present a Department of Defense-issued identification card.
But there will be random checks, during which the security team will ask for driver’s licenses and proof of insurance and registration. “People should have those things in their vehicle and know where they are” to help keep traffic flowing, said Connie Hemple, Pax River spokesperson.
The base stickers were most often placed on the outside of the driver’s-side window, displaying month and year and name of the naval command. The sticker proved that the vehicle was registered with the state, insured and that the driver was authorized to drive the car, said Pax River Security Officer Lt. Troy Niccum.
In March 2011, the Navy said that bases would eventually need to eliminate use of the decals. The Army and Air Force have already eliminated them, he said. Now, the Navy says that state requirements for registration and insurance are becoming more uniform, making the decals a duplicative effort for drivers and adding to the responsibilities of staff in pass offices.
The move is saving about $800,000 across 72 Navy installations, said Tony Reid a program manager at the Naval Installations Command. Reid estimated that Pax River would see a savings of about $11,000. “This is micro-dust in the big picture for programming, but a huge amount of money to the local command,” he said.
Pax River’s Gate 1 pass office will close July 8, not due to a reduction in administrative requirements, but because of sequestration and furloughs, Niccum said. It’s unclear when the office will reopen. Pax River recently made Gate 1 its main entrance, but visitors without DoD identification will be required to go to the pass office at Gate 2 until further notice.
One upside that drivers who live or work at Pax River might notice right away: Lengthy waits at pass offices for those decals will be just a memory.
Reactions on blogs and Facebook pages have ranged from, “finally,” to others concerned that no longer requiring the stickers will lead to fewer salutes given to officers entering the gates, since the decals distinguished officers from enlisted personnel.
“Of course,” officers will still be saluted, Niccum said. “When they present their identification, that identifies their rank.”
People without a DoD identification card will still need to use the pass offices for work-related access, tours and similar activities.
People have a lot of questions, Niccum said, including whether they have to scrape their old stickers off their cars next month. “You don’t have to. But you’re encouraged to,” Niccum said.
One safety concern, he said, was that decals identified motorists who were affiliated with the military. Other issues, according to Naval District Washington, were that stickers might have been transferred from car to car, counterfeited, or left on a vehicle after it had been sold.