The United States Army has warned military recruiters to treat the growing presence of armed citizens congregating around military recruiting centers across the country as a security threat. After last week's deadly shootings at two separate military centers in Chattanooga, Tennessee that left four U.S. Marines and a Navy sailor dead, groups of gun-toting citizens have gathered outside of military recruitment centers in an effort to protect the gun-free zones from potential attacks.
Soldiers have been told to avoid anyone standing outside of recruiting centers attempting to offer protection and report to local law enforcement if they feel threatened, according to a U.S. Army Recruiting Command policy letter released Monday, reported Stars and Stripes. The presence of heavily-armed civilians outside of recruiting centers has raised questions of safety.
"I'm sure the citizens mean well, but we cannot assume this in every case and we do not want to advocate this behavior," said the Army Command Operations Center-Security Division letter, which was authenticated by the service. The letter ordered soldiers to avoid interacting or acknowledging the armed civilians.
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Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez fired into the front of a strip mall recruiting center in Chattanooga on July 16, before driving to a Navy facility a few miles away where he shot and killed four Marines and several other service members, one of whom succumbed to his injuries two days later. Abdulazeez was killed the same day by police at the Navy facility.
The national group Oath Keepers told members Monday to "step up in their community and stand guard at their local recruiting stations and Reserve centers (anywhere our military personnel are forced to be unarmed while exposed to attack)."
"While we greatly appreciate the support of the American public during this tragedy, we ask that citizens do not stand guard at our recruiting offices," Capt. Jim Stenger, a Marine Corps recruiting public affairs officer told the Associated Press Tuesday. "Our continued public trust lies among our trained first responders for the safety of the communities where we live and work."