ONTARIO, Ohio- Armed volunteers stood watch outside the armed services Recruiting center in Ontario, Ohio on Wednesday, vowing to do what they can to protect the unarmed recruiters inside.
The activity is in response to the shooting of five service members in Chattanooga, Tennessee last week.
The volunteers have joined a growing movement across the country and though their intentions are good, various branches of the armed services are discouraging the activity.
On Wednesday, Gov. John Kasich authorized arming personnel at Ohio National Guard recruitment centers.
Former Marine Joel Lemaster was among those standing outside the Ontario recruiting center.
“We are just providing a presence, hopefully, that will deter anybody. We have a lot of support from passing people, honks, waves. Some more people brought us water. Somebody just brought us ice cream,” Lemaster said.
The ice cream was provided by Sarah Queer, who works at an insurance office across the street.
“We just wanted to say thank you. It’s nice to see more people who support the military and their troops and stand for their beliefs,” Queer said.
Most of the volunteers on Wednesday have never served in the military.
“Basically, we are hoping that our presence is enough to deter anything from happening,” said Odel Pittman, of Mansfield.
“For as long as it takes, as long as we get people to come out and stand guard, we will be here until they get the OK to protect themselves,” said Shawn Martin, of Mansfield.
Age-old policies and directives prohibit weapons inside the recruiting centers. But the civilian volunteers point out that Ohio law allows them to carry weapons outside of the centers.
At a hair styling business next door, the reaction was positive.
“I think it’s fabulous that they are here and they are showing their support for our servicemen and I think it’s a wonderful thing,” said Beth Yant, an employee of the salon who says her customers have been going over to thank the volunteers.
Both the United States Marine Corps and the U.S. Army issued statements to Fox 8 News on Wednesday about the activity.
The U.S. Army’s statement neither encouraging or discouraging the activity. From U.S. Army, Cleveland Recruiting Battalion:
“US Army Recruiting Command soldiers are using security and force protection policies to ensure the safety and security of our recruiting centers. The Department of Defense and the Army prohibit weapons from being in recruiting centers. In light of the attack, the Army will increase vigilance and review our security measures, particular at stand-alone sites not connected to a military installation. We are America’s Army and local communities can support our security by reporting suspicious activity, particularly around recruiting centers; if you see something, say something.”
But the United States Marine Corps statement openly discouraged the activity:
“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. Our continued public trust lies among our trained first responders for the safety of the communities where we live and work.”
It goes on to say:
“In light of this tragedy, we have reviewed and made necessary adjustments to our force protection conditions. Due to operational security reasons, we will not discuss specific force protection measures at our recruiting stations or offices. The safety of our Marines is our primary concern and we will continue to remain vigilante, proactive, and unpredictable in order to thwart potential incidents.
“We encourage our Marines and family members to remain vigilant and report any suspicious activity to local law enforcement.
“Our Marine recruiters remain committed to the mission as they continue to seek qualified men and women interested in earning the title ‘Marine.'”