You shall not pass: 934 Security Forces Squadron pop security barrier to stop gate runner

  • Published
  • By Chris Farley
  • 934th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

On a cold minus two January day last year, a silver 2014 Mercedes hastily turned from 34th Avenue South onto Military Highway and drove up to the 934th Airlift Wing’s front gate.

The car was traveling faster than the posted ten miles-per-hour sign.

The 934th Security Forces Squadron defenders at the main gate observed the driver’s swift approach and then watched the car’s front-end bounce after striking the speed bump faster than recommended.  

Staff Sgt. Joel Bakke, 934 SFS installation patrolman, was working outside the main gate guard shack and noticed the driver was hesitant to pull forward to the main gate. Both Bakke and Tech Sgt. Larson, 934 SFS assistant flight sergeant, who was inside the guard shack, were suspicious of the driver’s behavior before he stopped.

“You could tell this guy didn’t work here,” said Larson.

“I asked him where he was heading,” said Bakke. Bakke and Larson noticed the driver showed signs of intoxication. The driver slurred and mumbled his response. Furthermore, they observed the driver had bloodshot and watery eyes.

“At this point, I was going to take it as a DUI [driving under the influence], said Bakke. “I told him to put his vehicle in park and he looked like he was changing his vehicle gear to park and then he just looked up and he went, and that was it. There was no second thought and he drove away.”  

Before this incident, Bakke experienced four previous gate runners in his career and Larson seven.

“Muscle memory kicked in and Bakke called ‘gate runner’ over the net. I smashed the [barrier release] button as fast as I could,” said Larson. He estimates he hit the button more than thirty times.

The driver then accelerated his vehicle to approximately 40 to 45 mph without being permitted on base. In his attempt to navigate through the serpentine lane, he couldn’t steer correctly because his reactions and timing were slower than normal. He hit the cement curb, hit a frozen orange cone that blew up into pieces and the Mercedes rocketed over the curb.   

“He hit the curb, [which] kind of brought the car up a little bit and then he didn't even, I don't think, have a chance to react to the barrier,” said Staff Sgt. Dalton Hurn, 934 SFS base defense operations center controller, who was working the gate that day and had previously dealt with two gate runners in his career.

When the Mercedes impacted the barrier, the vehicle’s rear end bounced off the ground and plunged. The defenders said the vehicle’s brake lights did not indicate the driver braked before impact.

“This was the only one [gate runner] I've had that actually hit the barrier. Usually, they stop beforehand and are typically DUIs, just lost, or they don't know where they're going and made a wrong turn,” said Bakke.

By fleeing and gate crashing, the driver broke SFS’s rules of engagement and they were within their parameters to physically subdue the intruder. However, experience and training kicked in and the defenders reacted quickly. Furthermore, they were able to take a high-threat situation, keep control of it and eventually lower the driver’s level of tension.   

“Major kudos to Bakke and Hurn because they were able to talk him into being submissive when they fully had every right to go hands-on,” said Larson.

“Talking to people has always been something very favorable for me,” said Bakke. In tense situations, he has been able to diffuse aggressive situations on a scale of ten to one or two, resulting in the person being calm and reasonable in a stressful situation.  

SFS defenders routinely train and prepare for many different real-world scenarios impacting gate security for the base. The situations they train on can involve deploying the barriers during conditions involving noncooperative drivers where force is needed to contain the problem.     

“We even do training where there's a language barrier because we come into that pretty frequently. So, we'll have our guys bust out the Google Translate to figure out a way where they can communicate with the person up at the gate,” said Larson.

“Yeah, we could have gone hands-on pretty quickly, but I escalated my voice, my tone, the seriousness of where I was coming from, the seriousness of the situation, and exposing him to that through my words without having to go any further,” said Bakke.

It took the defenders less than seven minutes to subdue and cuff the driver; physical force wasn’t needed. Local police and emergency medical services soon arrived at the scene to provide first aid to the driver for injuries sustained from the accident and to place him in local police custody.

When working the gate, Hurn said he sometimes thinks about what could have happened that day if the driver wasn’t stopped. He feels they were fortunate this gate running occurred when there wasn’t heavy traffic. “I could imagine if this happened during a drill weekend and we didn't get the barriers up in time. He easily could have killed somebody.”  

“You're happy at the end of the day that the equipment works. We test them [barriers], to make sure they're operational. They go up and down, but to actually see it work in a real world situation, you know okay, this is going to do its job. This is pretty remarkable,” said Hurn.