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Airport tightens security

January 07, 2002

Airport tightens security



By DAVE McMILLION / Staff Writer, Charles Town


MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Security continues to tighten at the Eastern West Virginia Regional Airport following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, a Berkeley County official said last week.

Officials at the airport recently decided not to allow any vendors on the property when making a delivery, said Berkeley County Commissioner Robert L. Burkhart.

When a truck is making a delivery at the airport, security guards unload the truck and transport the items to the base themselves, said Burkhart, who is also a member of the Eastern West Virginia Regional Airport Authority.

Burkhart said security needs to be tight at the airport given the military's presence there.

The Air National Guard's 167th Airlift Wing is based at the airport, and the 12 C-130 cargo planes the Air Guard keeps at the airport could be a prime target for a suicide plane bomber, Burkhart said during the Berkeley County Commission meeting last Thursday.

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Armed guards patrol the perimeter of the airport on an hourly basis, said Burkhart.

Since the patrols started, officers have noticed several areas where holes have been cut in the fence surrounding the airport, said Burkhart.

Burkhart said the holes could have been the result of innocent activity, such as deer hunters wanting to hunt in the area around the airport, which is located off U.S. 11 just south of Martinsburg, W.Va.

"It could have been there when no one was patrolling before," said Burkhart.

Local police and military officials say it is important for them to be vigilant following the attacks.

Last October, a bioterrorism expert who works for the 167th Airlift Wing told a group of police and emergency preparedness officials in Jefferson County that the rural nature of the Eastern Panhandle makes it an ideal place for a terrorist to plan an attack somewhere in the country.

At the time, Lt. Col. James W. Marrs related instances where U.S. military uniforms and police uniforms have been stolen across the country, including an incident in Charleston, W.Va.

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