Officials at one of the country's largest Marine bases are doubling down on efforts to get troops to comply with vehicle decal requirements despite several Defense Department-wide warnings to service members and their families to conceal their military affiliations following recent terror threats.
Marine officials at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, issued an advisory reminding all personnel working or stationed aboard the base to properly display DoD vehicle decals. Going without may result in a ticket, according to Lejeune officials, who say recent heightened security measures have revealed that many on base don't comply with the decal requirement.
The policy, which applies to the whole Marine Corps, contrasts with guidance issued by the Pentagon's Force Protection Agency to all DoD personnel in October in response to threats from the Islamic State group. The agency recommended that all DoD personnel "remove any [military] decals or identifiers from clothing and vehicles."
Military bases across the nation have maintained an elevated level of security since early May in response to concerns about terrorist threats, according to officials with U.S. Northern Command. While bases were previously observing Force Protection Level Alpha, the lowest level of security, they are functioning at Force Protection Level Bravo. That security level requires additional safety measures that can include more detailed vehicle and identification checks at military gates.
During one screening period earlier this month in which Camp Lejeune gate guards paid closer attention DoD decals on vehicles entering the base, officials discovered that a significant number of Lejeune residents and employees were missing the stickers.
A base spokesman, Nat Fahy, said officials believed the problem was due to inconsistencies in understanding of the current decal requirements, which haven't changed.
"[The decals] let law enforcement officers know that the driver has a valid identification, the proper insurance and vehicle registration, and legitimate business aboard the installation," Fahy said. "The DoD ID cards are what give you access to the base, but the DoD decal is the secondary layer of security that is still required."
This decal requirement has become increasingly controversial. Because of the stickers' prominent windshield placement and the information they convey, some believe they jeopardize the safety of troops and their families instead of protecting it.
"I don't like being targeted and my husband is always on me about [operational security]," Marine spouse Kristine Schelhaas told Marine Corps Times late last year. "… And yet we go and stick these symbols on our car."
The Navy got rid of vehicle decals in 2013, citing similar security concerns. The Army and Air Force have also dispensed with them. A decision regarding the Corps' decals policy is pending at Marine Corps Installations Command, but officials say no new rules have been implemented yet.
Fahy said rumors about an upcoming change to the vehicle decals policy could be behind the recent lax approach to displaying them. But residents and employees will be expected to fall in line with decal requirements following a new move by base commander Brig. Gen. Robert Castellvi to "aggressively communicate" the existing policy with public announcements, Fahy said.
Camp Lejeune is issuing 30-day vehicle passes to those who don't have the decals in order to cut down on crowding at the base's visitor center. But when the passes expire, Fahy said, vehicles that don't have the stickers may be subject to tickets or fines.