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Those visiting Fort Knox could have speedier access as soon as Memorial Day weekend.
Col. Bruce Jenkins, Fort Knox garrison commander, said the post is working through final tests on a background check program known as Allstar that will allow guards at each of Fort Knox’s gates to instantaneously search local and national databases in seconds through a simple scan of a driver’s license.
The program has been in the works for months and first was announced by Maj. Gen. Mark McDonald, Fort Knox commander, as a way to loosen access restrictions for the surrounding communities so they can drive on post, look around, and take advantage of businesses and recreational activities.
The system will be able to sift out fugitives or other individuals with extensive criminal histories who are not wanted on post. The system also can scan a list of local individuals who have been denied access and can search databases to identify individuals who have caused trouble or had run-ins with the law at other military or Department of Defense installations, he said.
The system will register a visitor’s driver’s license after it is scanned, allowing for quick access on future visits, Jenkins added.
“There’ll be no need for a pass anymore,” he said.
Jenkins said the post belongs to taxpayers and they should have easy access if they do not pose a threat.
“This is truly a community treasure,” he said.
Jenkins said the system already has been tested and works with Kentucky driver’s licenses, but officials still are working to sync all 50 states to the system so the post can accommodate someone from Alaska as easy as it can someone from Vine Grove.
After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the need for security heightened and access to Fort Knox became limited as it shifted to a “hardened” Army installation, Jenkins said. Initially visitors had to register their vehicles before gaining access to post. Fort Knox eventually backed away from that requirement but asked visitors to obtain daily or weekly passes from the visitor’s center, which could take a half hour or longer because of the need to fill out paperwork and provide documentation, Jenkins said.
The visitors center now is closed for renovations and visitors are asked to provide their driver’s license for review by a guard. Jenkins said a 15-minute wait per vehicle is allowable now as they transition to the automated system but he prefers each visitor be cleared in 10 minutes or less. When the system goes online, he said, the wait will reduce dramatically.
“The process is happening (now),” he said. “It’s just not happening instantly.”
As another aid for visitors, the visitor’s center at Chaffee Gate is being remodeled into a welcome center more akin to facilities found as travelers enter a state. Jenkins said the center will provide maps and information about activities and sites on post. The post also plans to install “smart” kiosks where visitors can find pertinent information, such as the route to a location on post or hours of operation, Jenkins added.
Space also will be available in the welcome center for local businesses to buy and place advertising, which Jenkins said will help offset the cost of renovations. He expects the center to be finished by Memorial Day weekend.
Fort Knox also is in the process of installing large info screens in popular gathering spots around post. Those screens, he said, will be split between information from local businesses or community organizations wanting to advertise and information provided by the U.S. Army about post activities and news.
Jenkins said the post likely will have as many as 150 of the screens at completion and plans to place jumbo trons at each of the gates.
Recreation on post also is expanding, Jenkins added, with the construction of a multi-purpose Astroturf field next to the new Warrior Transition Complex on Spearhead Division Avenue. Jenkins said the field will be built primarily for wounded warriors on post but will be available for use by community and high school teams when wounded warriors are not using it.
Kyle Hodges, a public information officer for the Fort Knox Public Affairs Office, said the new field will accommodate football and soccer and potentially could be available for baseball.
Jenkins said the field, which is nothing more than a mound of dirt now, could be complete as early as June or July. He said he wants the field completed by the fall but the schedule appears to be aggressive enough to pull it off by summer.
Marty Finley can be reached at (270) 505-1762 or firstname.lastname@example.org.