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SSC-Natick Press Release

U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center-Natick
Public Affairs Office
Kansas Street
Natick, MA 01760-5012

Contact: Public Affairs Office

Date: June 2, 2008
No: 08-13

Gate guards ensure security and good first impression

Lt. Timothy Konetzny, gate guard, U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center, Natick, Mass., examines identification badge prior to allowing employee access to the installation. (Photo by Patty Welsh)  

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NATICK, Mass. --   When arriving at the U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center (SSC) here, employees and visitors are greeted by the courteous and professional staff members from TW and Company, Inc., who serve as gate guards.

Michael Bren, project manager, said the goal of the staff is to provide a friendly environment at the gates for the personnel on post and their visitors. But he also emphasizes that the guards are trained and able to respond to any event.

Although Bren's background is in law enforcement, he said a number of the guards come in with no security background. "We have a lot of veterans, and some kids right out of college or the military. For some it's a retirement job. They [all] got right into learning the role and the job," he said of the current crew. "We do 120 hours of training, some base specific, some regarding military codes, training on state laws and on weapons. We're assisted by the DoD Police for hands-on training."

The employees learn right away that this is an intensive security job, Bren continued. "We want to ensure the employees know that we know how to protect them, which makes everyone feel more comfortable."

Sgt. James Corbett, a Vietnam-era veteran who has been SSC's officer of the year twice, said the guards try to make the visitors as comfortable as possible and get them in as fast as possible.

"In my position as sergeant, part of my job is to go through emails to see who is coming in and make sure everyone is notified, especially if there are VIPs or media," he said. "Visitors cannot come on post without an appointment," he emphasized, "and we have to confirm that. If they have an appointment but we are not aware of it, we will try to contact the employee, but sometimes they may be away from their desk. We will try second and third point of contacts, but we are supposed to send them away if we cannot reach anyone within 20 to 30 minutes." As a reminder, he said all foreign visitors need to have their passport and be escorted.

Corbett encourages employees who are anticipating visitors to send a detailed email to the guards at: NATI-Guards-Police-SSC. "This will make the employees', the visitors' and the guards' lives easier," he said.

One of his favorite parts of the job is working at the main gate. "I like the interaction with employees," he said. "I want to make the base as safe as possible, to make the employees as safe as possible."

On a daily basis, the guards could be assigned to the main gate, the service gate or the Visitor's Center and they usually rotate positions during the day.

Both Bren and Corbett agree that one of the challenges of the job is dealing with commercial vehicles at the service gate.

"Day to day we want to ensure safety." Bren said. "We can be inspecting up to 200 vehicles a day and you never know what you might be dealing with, drugs, weapons, health hazards. The inspections are thorough."

Since December 2006, when TW and Company, Inc., took over the contract for the guards, more than 140 illegal or unauthorized entry attempts have been prevented and more than 75 seizures of illegal drugs have been made, he continued.

Corbett said there is always the chance that something could happen. "Since 9/11, the world is not the same," he said. "That's why we try to ensure we do our job properly."

He mentioned that after Sept. 11, 2001, it was a change for the employees, especially those who had been working at SSC a long time, to get used to the security procedures. "They're used to it now," he continued, "so the job becomes ensuring we are asking visitors the right questions."

Another challenge mentioned was dealing with the ever-changing New England weather. "You need to bring all your gear all the time," Corbett said.

Bren also spoke about supporting special events on the installation. "Recently, we had the Medal of Honor ceremony. The company itself [TW and Company, Inc.] went out of its way to ensure we could have extra employees that day. They also did that for the Weapons of Mass Destruction exercise. We provide support to ensure the success of these events."

This is an installation with very big highs and lows, Bren said. You have the hustle and bustle of daytime, which is normally very active, and nighttime is usually quiet. "They tell me it's just them and the raccoons," he says of the guards working at night. "They have to be very disciplined."

Previously, Bren said, it was thought that the guards needed to be kind of tough-acting. "This is not an installation where that works," he said. "We're more about community service. However, we are a very proactive company that always goes a step further in protecting our community."

Corbett said as SSC is a smaller installation, you get to know the majority of the personnel coming to work everyday.

"I also encourage the guards' participation in off-duty activities that are happening on the installation," Bren said. Joining the softball league or attending functions at the Community Center lets the guards meet the employees on a personal level.

"Our job is to make everyone visiting feel welcome," said Corbett. "They're all bigwigs to us."

This page last updated on 10 May 2006.