Security measures were increased at RAF Mildenhall in England last month after an unauthorized man gained access to the base, officials have confirmed to Military Times.
On Jan. 23, “a British national gained unauthorized access onto RAF Mildenhall,” a United States Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa public affairs staffer told Military Times Sunday morning in an email. “No ill intent is suspected, and the individual was escorted off base without incident. Extra security measures are in effect to ensure a similar incident does not occur.”
Citing operational security concerns, USAFE officials declined comment what new steps are being taken to defend the base against intruders.
“A security investigation is underway and further action may be taken pending results,” USAFE’s media desk said in a statement to Military Times.
The wing commander declined comment as well.
“I cannot comment on this as it’s a subject of an ongoing investigation,” Air Force Col. Troy Pananon, commander of the 100th Air Refueling Wing, the base host unit, told Military Times Saturday afternoon. “Installation security and defense is the top priority for every base and RAF Mildenhall is no exception.”
A post on the unofficial Air Force amn/nco/snco Facebook page — which first reported the incident — said that a man “drove through the bird in hand gate which has alligator teeth, popped three tires, Not one of the three SF members in the gate shack noticed. The man made it to the gym parking lot and was trying to change three flats with one spare and a member walking out of the gym approached him and knew something was wrong. Called BDOC and walked the man back to the gate where his daughter was waiting. Now SF have to stand outside the gate shack 24/7 and the investigation is on going.”
Monday morning, USAFE officials confirmed the incident took place at the Bird in Hand Gate, which was guarded at the time, and that the man was discovered changing his tires.
In addition to “The Bloody 100th,” Mildenhall is home to the 352d Special Operations Wing, the 727th Air Mobility Squadron, the 95th Reconnaissance Squadron, the 488 Intelligence Squadron and the U.S.Air Forces in Europe - United Kingdom.
The unauthorized access incident came about two weeks before a man climbed aboard a C-40 transport jet at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland after gaining unauthorized access to that facility. Air Force officials announced a global security review after that incident.
“Anytime we have a significant breach like that at Andrews, it’s only prudent that we more broadly review our security protocols and procedures to continually enhance the security of our installations which is critically important,” Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek told Military Times Saturday afternoon.
This also marks the second intrusion onto Mildenhall in less than four years.
On Dec. 18, 2017, a man with a with a teddy bear strapped to his chest showed up at the main gate to the base, claiming to be from the Secret Service and saying, “This is a matter of national security, and I must speak to the president,” Air Force Times reported in September 2019.
Seconds later, he drove through the gate and swerved around a pop-up barricade. There was ensuing chase, in which multiple shots were fired, but it ended with no injuries to the unidentified man aside from some bumps and scrapes during his eventual arrest.
That gate breach incident at Mildenhall prompted the Air Force to do some serious soul-searching about how it handles base security — both in terms of infrastructure and its security forces’ tactics, training and procedures — and make changes to ensure something like that doesn’t happen again.
“It was something of a wake-up call for us,” said then-Brig. Gen. Andrea Tullos, who was the Air Force’s director of security forces, in an Aug. 9, 2019 interview with Air Force Times. Tullos has since pinned on her second star and is now commander of the Second Air Force. “That will remain a studied case for us for years and years. Hopefully, we won’t have another one.”
As with the aftermath of last week’s incident at JBA, Tullos at the time said the 2017 Mildenhall breach prompted the entire Air Force to review how it approaches base security and make changes.
“The Mildenhall case caused us to look at every single installation access point in our entire Air Force that we own as a service, total force, Guard and Reserve, inspect every single one of them,” Tullos said. “It caused us to look at a lot of our tactics, techniques and procedures to say, why did this happen instead of this?
“How are we training our airmen?” she continued. “How are we defending our installations? What does it mean to have to have a capability to deny access to an airfield? That’s our bread and butter. Even if they’re benign, I don’t want someone on our airfield who doesn’t belong out there.”
Howard Altman is an award-winning editor and reporter who was previously the military reporter for the Tampa Bay Times and before that the Tampa Tribune, where he covered USCENTCOM, USSOCOM and SOF writ large among many other topics.