White Sands Missile Range Directorate of Emergency Services will change the way it will keep over 6,500 participants, friends and family and the WSMR community safe during the 27th annual Bataan Memorial Death March, March 20.
DES Capt. Tom Benavidez said the increase in Force Protection levels from Alpha to Bravo has led to increased security measures. Some of the changes include a change in parking locations and a change in pedestrian vehicle parking on Owen Road, where the route breaks off for marathon marchers and honorary marchers.
“We’ve increased our security posture this year,” Benavidez said. “We’ve spent a lot of time developing an overall concept of operation and we’re looking forward to the event. We will do our best to accommodate everyone and make this a safe event.”
Ongoing construction on the range will cause the parking locations to change from what has already been printed in the Bataan information guide. Participants will be parked based on the gate they are entering. Benavidez said there is plenty of parking to accommodate all participants.
“We will be able to get everyone in, parked and at the event site on time,” Benavidez said.
He said he anticipates traffic will start at 3:30 a.m. March 20. Most of the 6,500 marchers are coming from outside of the installation, Benavidez said. Friends, family members and spectators will still be allowed to cheer on their marchers at the start of the race, however there will be an increase in law enforcement presence at the starting point and throughout the event.
There will no longer be a parking lot near the closing ceremony tent, according to Benavidez. Those who wish to attend are asked to walk to the location from the nearest parking location.
Another big change will be seen on Owen Road and U.S. Highway 70, where Benavidez said spectators will no longer be allowed to park off near where participants are marching. A one-mile stretch of Owen Road will be closed off beginning at Highway 70, parking is also not allowed on Highway 70. Spectators can park 300 yards from the route and walk to their desired location from there. Highway 70 will be monitored by the New Mexico State Police.
“This year we’re clearing these areas out,” Benavidez said. “They cannot park their vehicles anywhere along the roadside where participants are marching. It may be a bit of an inconvenience for spectators, but when we weigh that against the safety of the participants, the safety of the participants prevails.”
Participants and spectators should expect to see working dogs. Both military working dogs and civilian K-9 units will be on duty at the event. Those who will be bringing their pets are asked to keep their pets leashed at all times. It is also important to note that working dogs are not to be approached or petted while on duty, Benavidez said.
“This event would not have been possible without the assistance of these outside agencies,” Benavidez said. “They really stepped up this year.”
Surrounding federal, State, local, and military law enforcement agencies will be on hand during the event. Border Patrol, New Mexico Game and Fish Department, Doña Ana County Reserve Officers, New Mexico State University Police, NMSU Air Force Reserve Officers’ Training Corps., New Mexico State Police, Las Cruces Police Department, New Mexico Mounted Patrol, 93rd Military Police Battalion from Fort Bliss, Texas, and the 49th Wing Security Forces Squadron from Holloman Air Force Base will all play a role in security the day of the event.
“We’re always ready and able to assist our surrounding agencies,” said Las Cruces Police Department Public Information Officer Dan Trujillo. “We always look forward to it, especially this event because of its significance.”
Benavidez said his department will be working longer hours to ensure the safety of the community and the event. Benavidez and his team has been gearing up for the event for the past six months.
All participants coming through the gate should have all windows in the vehicle rolled down in order to ensure officers can see the individuals, Benavidez said. There may be a situation where guard dogs will alert them to something in a vehicle. The situation will be dealt with at the scene and may cause traffic delays.
“We want to ensure that we do all we can to provide a safe and secure environment to the participants and the community,” Benavidez said.
If a participant or spectator has a weapon it must be declared and registered for the event, according to Benavidez. The weapons that are registered will be kept unloaded and placed into a compartment of the vehicle that is inaccessible to the driver and passengers of the vehicle. Ammunition for the firearms must be transported in a compartment or area separate from the weapon. When driving a vehicle like a pickup truck, the firearms must be unloaded and transported in the passenger compartment, out of sight, with ammunition in a separate area of the vehicle. Anyone attempting to enter the installation with a weapon, without prior approval will be denied access. The Concealed-Carry law states that the licenses and permits do not apply to military installations.
“No one is allowed to carry a concealed weapon on the installation,” Benavidez said.
To register your weapon for the event, call Phyllis Quintana at (575) 678-7675.