Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz. -- Upon arriving at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., a visitor’s first impression of Marines will be the military police gate guard, who is posted at each of the station entrances. With a calm demeanor and steely expression, the guards ask for identification while completing a visual inspection of each vehicle that approaches the station gates, ensuring only authorized personnel are admitted onto the station.
As elements of the Provost Marshalls Office, these stalwart sentries are the first line of defense for MCAS Yuma, and responsible for the safety and well-being of both our civilian and military staff. Although often overlooked, the Marines and sailors of PMO can work long grueling hours to fulfill their mission, which can extend far beyond the reach of the front gate.
“[The mission of PMO is] to protect and serve MCAS Yuma by enforcing rules, regulations, and laws by providing a safe and secure environment for all permanent and visiting personnel,” said Maj. Rigoberto Valenzuela, the civilian deputy provost marshal for MCAS Yuma.
As a joint force, PMO works as an integrated network of services to uphold the peace across the air station. The operations department coordinates with multiple sections to run various training operations, and assign military police to patrol the entirety of the base. Each section of PMO has a specified responsibility aboard the air station, including the K-9 unit and special response team (SRT).
The military working dog, or K-9 unit, serves as a deterrent at the gate ensuring only appropriate personnel and deliveries come on station. The dogs patrol the base with their handlers and conduct searches for narcotics and explosive devices. They also offer demonstrations for school tours and visitors to provide a better understanding of their job.
SRT, which is the Marine Corps version of a Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team, offers assistance and response to high risk situations, should they occur at MCAS Yuma. Potential situations include hostages, live shooters and felony arrests.
“The special response team is always training and are ready to interact or assist,” said Second Lt. Cory Karr, the civilian assistant operations officer for PMO. “During a hostage situation or any kind of high-risk scenario is when SRT puts its training to use.”
PMO’s services department provides the operations department with support services, such as if more vehicles or supplies are needed. Physical security, accident investigation division, animal control, pass and registration, and criminal investigation fall under the services department.
The accident investigation division (AID) offers driving under the influence (DUI) countermeasure programs for the installation. AID made a significant and meaningful impact during the Marine Wing Support Squadron 371 DUI stand down initiative in April. The DUI intervention program influenced Marines and impacted programs to take preventative measures against drinking and driving.
“They go out and talk to the commands and units about drinking and driving’s negative effects,” said Karr. “We try to do as much training as possible.”
Physical security is responsible for the security of the entire installation, flight line and existing perimeters or structures outside of MCAS Yuma that belong to the station. This includes patrolling station housing areas and barracks, and organizing crime prevention events to educate personnel on base about how to protect their property.
“We encourage talking to people to see if there are any issues or complaints they have,” said Karr. “It’s not just always enforcing stuff, its interacting with the public.”
Crime prevention events include PMO participation in Marine Corps Community Services activities, for example PMO recently coordinated the appearance of McGruff the crime dog’s visit to the Child Development Center to talk to kids about drugs, bullying, and safety.
To better provide assistance to both service members and civilians, PMO works continuously with local Yuma law enforcement to strengthen the working relationship between the two.
This mutually beneficial relationship between organizations is critical to the mission of PMO, allowing them to enforce state and local rules and regulations and ensure seamless interaction with civilians.
“[Local law enforcement] come on base and we work with them closely,” said Karr. “If we have an incident that involves civilians we usually contact them and they take over; we work with them to make sure it goes smooth, because they take jurisdiction over civilians aboard the base.”
Providing various services to the MCAS Yuma community, PMO strives not only to protect, but to serve.
“I believe it’s very important to have PMO here to provide that sense of security that Marines and their family members are looking for,” said Rowe. “Ultimately, the important thing is to serve the community and serve the people and make sure they work and live in a safe environment.”