Cards raise security issues at Vance Air Force Base

BY RANDY ELLIS Published: February 14, 2010

/> Martinez-Ochoa’s boss said his employee had worked on and off at the base for about three months before he was arrested on Jan. 11.

Spradlin said he detained Martinez-Ochoa because he recognized the man’s Texas identification card was a fake.

Spradlin said Vance officials hadn’t trained him to recognize fake identification cards, but he had prior experience as a border patrol agent.

"Victor told me the picture on the ID was his, but the rest was fake,” the officer said in a sworn affidavit. "He stated it was purchased from a place in Dallas. He would not tell me where.”

Martinez-Ochoa pleaded guilty to a state felony charge of displaying a false identification card and was given a three-year suspended sentence. After his conviction, he was turned over to federal immigration officers, officials said.

Are breaches common?
Spradlin thinks illegal immigrants still are working on base.

"I cannot speak to repeated cases,” Col. Nowland responded.

"I do know that we had a subcontractor ... who was working in our landscaping on our Pinnacle Hunt housing development, which resulted in us doing a sweep and those individuals were gone,” Nowland said.

Nowland granted a reporter and photographer for The Oklahoman interviews with key security officials and access to the base to see the several levels of security.

Visitors must be sponsored by authorized individuals while on base and must present photo identification cards to the base’s security forces squadron before being allowed entrance. A guard at the gate checks the identification of drivers as they enter the base, and sometimes passengers as well.

Employees of contractors and subcontractors are subjected to even more scrutiny.

The government requires contractors and subcontractors to verify the identities of their employees, said Tom Patton, contracting officer for the Air Force base.

The list of verified employees goes to the contracting agency for review.

The base security forces squadron then performs background checks before deciding whether they will be issued contractor passes, officials said.

The passes and identification cards of workers are checked by security guards at the gate whenever the workers enter.

How the system failed
Martinez-Ochoa, one of those arrested, worked for True Steel of Ada.

Greg Perry, his employer, said he has about 10 workers and doesn’t have the in-house expertise to determine whether identification cards are valid.

"It’s a bad deal,” he said. "We’re a small company.”

Vance’s security forces squadron also failed to detect the fake ID during its background check.

Maj. Michelle Stringer, 71st Security Forces commander, said detecting fake IDs can be extremely difficult because there are dozens of state driver’s licenses and other picture identification cards.

Stringer said Spradlin was very good at detecting fake cards because of his border experience and the rest of the unit tried to learn from him.

Additional technological help is on the way in the form of a new generation of bar code readers, said Stringer.


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Vance Air Force Base


Location: Four miles south of downtown Enid.


Base population: About 3,500.


Mission: Train pilots for the Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps and allies.

ONLINE: For a video about base security, search for "Vance Air Force Base” on NewsOK.com.

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