Report – Operation Protect the Protectors, Fort Wayne, Indiana
On July 16, 2015, a terrorist attack on an Armed Forces Career Center and a Navy Reserve installation in Chattanooga, Tennessee, left four Marines and a Sailor dead. While the attack was perpetrated by only a single individual, regulations prohibiting Armed Services members from carrying firearms on U. S. bases left the servicemen virtually defenseless. The following day, in Fort Wayne, Indiana, a lone armed patriot appeared standing guard in front of the Armed Forces Career Center at Glenbrook Commons.
Initially, a civilian with a tactical rifle posted in a shopping area caused a bit of a stir. Police were called and the person was briefly detained, but authorities soon acknowledged that no laws were being broken, and the man was allowed to resume his watch. He continued, but within a day or two, recognized that he needed help and contacted our local Oath Keepers leadership. We responded immediately.
At first, we were uncertain as to how our presence would be received. Aware that the presence of armed men in the parking lot might cause shoppers some concern, we were careful not to appear threatening. During the initial contact with police it had been agreed that, while carrying long guns was legal, it was nonetheless disturbing to some folks, and we would keep them out of sight. Also, police requested that we wear identifying clothing (Oath Keepers shirts, hats, etc.) so that, in the event of an altercation, they would be able to identify the “good guys”.
Our concerns for public acceptance were soon dispelled, however, as car after car stopped by our position to thank us. People brought us food, water, ice, and other supplies. One generous couple even donated a canopy to provide us some shelter. The local businesses said that their employees felt safer with us watching over the parking lot. The stores made their restrooms available to us and, in some cases, offered us discounts.
In the beginning, the recruiters themselves were cool toward us as, for the most part, they were under orders not to interact with any civilians standing guard. Relations soon warmed, however, and they made their gratitude known. At one point, a few months into our stand, they held an “appreciation” dinner for us at a local restaurant, inviting all of us who were involved and our wives/girlfriends. As time went on, even their officers stopped to thank us, shaking hands and handing out challenge coins. The comment of one Naval officer was, “Gentlemen, your resolve is outstanding.”
Our activity caught the attention of the local news media who visited us on numerous occasions. The news items were almost always favorable. As reluctant as some of us were to go on camera, the resulting videos were flatteringly edited. The questions we were asked generally focused on who we were and why we were there, and ultimately, how long we intended to stay. We made it clear that we were there to ensure the safety of the recruiters and we didn’t intend to leave until security measures were implemented to protect the recruiting personnel. We wanted to see either the service members armed so that they could defend themselves, or the facility hardened to make it less vulnerable.
So, we did remain through the fall, winter, spring, and following summer. Our strength varied from one or two to sometimes a dozen, or more, as we kept watch during the hours that the center was occupied, usually from 0800 until, occasionally, as late as 2200. Ultimately, the Army Corps of Engineers let a contract to improve security at the recruiting center. These upgrades, which included remote locks, video, and intercoms, were completed on November 7, 2016. On that basis, we concluded our operation, 481 days since July 16, 2015.
The publicity generated during our activities created considerable interest in Oath Keepers. We handed out a lot of Oath Keepers brochures and pocket Constitutions. Some new members and other patriots asked to join our detail, so we developed the following SOP to guide them:
Indiana Oath Keepers Region 1
Operation Protect the Protectors
Standard Operating Procedures
Glenbrook Commons is a public mall with commercial enterprises. Always keep in mind that we are guests of the property owners, and be respectful of their business interests. Take care not to offend or intimidate business patrons. Be courteous and professional. Keep areas that we utilize orderly and clean.
Avoid military style uniforms or combat gear. Hats, shirts, or jackets identifying us as Oath Keepers are encouraged.
Sidearms may be worn openly or concealed. You MUST have a valid Indiana Handgun permit.
Long guns are to be kept in vehicles and not displayed openly (per agreement with Fort Wayne police).
All state and local firearm laws and gun safety protocols are to be observed.
We have no special authority. Rules of engagement are the same for us as for any other citizen.
We are utilizing FRS channels with hand-held walkie-talkies. We are currently operating on FRS channel 10. These are open public channels. Keep communications professional.
We have been well received by the property management and local businesses. It is imperative that we remain on good terms with them. Respect for the facilities and business activities is an absolute necessity.
Dunhams, Taqueria B, and Ollie’s have welcomed us and are allowing us to use their restrooms. You may enter these stores with your sidearm. The Recruiting Center restroom is also available, but firearms are not permitted.
The property management has graciously allowed us to make use of the vacant store-front between Ross and Dunhams. There is also a restroom there. Please observe the following:
There is to be no smoking in the building.
All gear is to be kept behind the partition and not visible from the windows.
The doors should be kept locked when not in use.
As always, keep it neat and clean.
Interaction with recruiters:
While the military recruiting personnel seem to appreciate our presence, their superiors may not. Be friendly, but do not monopolize their time or divert their attention from their duties. We do not wish to hinder them in the performance of their jobs or to give that appearance.
Upon our withdrawal and ceasing operations, we sent the following letter to all local law enforcement agencies:
Since mid-July, 2015, following the terrorist attack on a military recruiting facility in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Indiana Oath Keepers, in cooperation with other patriotic citizens, has maintained a protective watch at the Armed Forces Career Center located at Glenbrook Commons in Fort Wayne. This activity, designated “Operation Protect the Protectors”, was meant to provide an additional layer of security for the recruiting center personnel, due to the vulnerability of the facility and the inability of the unarmed occupants to defend themselves.
In addition to standing guard during these fifteen months, Oath Keepers has worked with various public, corporate, and military entities to facilitate improvements in the location’s security. Although we have not achieved our most desired goal of having the military personnel armed, work has proceeded to make the building less susceptible to attack. With this reduced risk, Oath Keepers feels that our full presence is no longer required, and we have officially concluded this operation as of November 7, 2016.
In formally ending this mission, the Oath Keepers presence will be greatly reduced, but not entirely eliminated. There will be continued random monitoring and a commitment to return in force if the perception of a threat should arise.
Although we believe that a public announcement of our withdrawal would not be in the best interests of our mission, we do not want to leave without thanking the members of law enforcement community for their cooperation. Without your acceptance and tacit support, our activity would not have been possible.
Hopefully, our orderly presence at Glenbrook has demonstrated that we are not vigilantes and that we have no aspirations to become cops. We are citizens with a commitment to the rule of law and the safety of the community. If a situation should arise in which you could utilize our limited skills, we would be available to you.
Thank you and be safe.
Yours in Solidarity,