OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Air Force launches probe into Andrews access | Pentagon approves help for FEMA | Navy boot camp instructor dies of COVID-19

OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Air Force launches probe into Andrews access | Pentagon approves help for FEMA | Navy boot camp instructor dies of COVID-19
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Happy Friday and welcome to Overnight Defense. I'm Ellen Mitchell, and here's your nightly guide to the latest developments at the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill and beyond. CLICK HERE to subscribe to the newsletter.


THE TOPLINE: The Air Force has launched an investigation after a man on Thursday gained unauthorized access to Joint Base Andrews, the military installation in Maryland that houses Air Force One.

The man, who made it past the flight line and entered a C-40 aircraft assigned to the 89th Airlift Wing, was detained by security forces on the base, according to an Air Force statement released on Friday. 

“Everybody’s taking this very seriously,” top Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby told reporters.

New IG probe: Acting Air Force Secretary John Roth and chief of staff Charles Brown plan to order the service’s inspector general “to fully investigate this issue,” Kirby added.

The “thorough investigation” will also include looks at installations worldwide and security protocols across the force, he said.

Details of the breach: The intruder, described only as an adult male, was booked by the U.S. Air Force Office of Special Investigations and given a federal summons for trespassing after he was detained. He was turned over to local law enforcement, given that he had two outstanding warrants, according to the release.

The man did not harm any personnel and there is no indication that he has any links to extremist groups.

“The security of our installation is paramount,” Col. Roy Oberhaus, the vice wing commander of the 316th Wing at Joint Base Andrews, said in the release. “This was a serious breach of security and Joint Base Andrews is investigating the incident to determine how this happened so it doesn’t happen again.”

Military Times reported that the man was transported to the Prince George’s County Department of Corrections as he had an open warrant stemming from Virginia. No details were given about the reason for the warrants.

Changing protocols: Following the incident, the base is suspending its Trusted Traveler program, which allows those with valid clearance to vouch for up to 10 people in their vehicle, Military Times reported.

Kirby said that the base “adjusted some of their security protocols” this morning, but did not go into details.

A White House official also told the outlet that the intruder was “nowhere near” Air Force One, which President Biden was set to use Friday to fly to Delaware. 


PENTAGON APPROVES 1,100 PERSONNEL TO HELP FEMA WITH COVID-19 VACCINES: The Pentagon has authorized more than 1,000 active-duty service members to help the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) with its vaccination effort against COVID-19.

The 1,110 active-duty troops will be broken up into teams of 222 people to support five state vaccination sites, according to a Defense Department fact sheet released Friday.

White House coronavirus response coordinator Jeff Zients called the effort a “critical part of our all of government response.”

A first round: An initial group of 222 people will be deployed to a site in California in the coming days, Kirby told reporters later on Friday.

“We expect that they’ll be able to get on site on or about the 15th of this month,” Kirby said, referring questions to FEMA as to the exact location.

Earlier: The announcement comes after FEMA late last month asked the Pentagon to assist with President Biden's goal to vaccinate 100 million people against the coronavirus in his first 100 days in office.

Among the possible solutions is sending up to 10,000 active-duty and National Guard forces to 100 vaccination sites across the country, though such a request is “still to be determined,” according to the Defense Department.

The breakdown: The teams approved thus far will be made up of personnel from across the military services, and include 80 vaccinators, 15 registered nurses, 57 clinical staff, 15 command and control and 55 general purpose, the fact sheet notes.

The Pentagon is still working with FEMA to determine what sites the other four teams will go to and in what order, Kirby said.


NAVY BOOT CAMP INSTRUCTOR LATEST MILITARY COVID-19 DEATH: A 50-year-old Navy boot camp instructor has died of COVID-19, the service announced Friday.

Chief Quartermaster Herbert Rojas, of Richmond Hill, N.Y., died Tuesday in his off-base residence, the Navy said in a statement.

Rojas was assigned to Recruit Training Command Great Lakes, based in Great Lakes, Ill., as a staff instructor.

“We are deeply saddened by the loss of our friend and shipmate Chief Rojas, and we will continue supporting his family and friends during this time of grief,” said Capt. Erik Thors, commanding officer at Recruit Training Command. 

Climbing numbers: Rojas’s death brings the military’s overall death toll due to the coronavirus to 21 service members. In addition to Rojas, four active-duty service members have died, including Second Class Petty Officer Cody Andrew-Godfredson Myers, assigned to the USS Tennessee ballistic missile submarine, who also died this week.

In addition to the active-duty deaths, eight guardsmen and eight reservists have died from COVID-19.

Overall, the Pentagon has reported 225,753 coronavirus cases as of Wednesday, according to a chart the department maintains on its website.

The total cases reported Wednesday include 143,272 in the military, 45,106 among civilians, 23,034 among dependents and 14,341 among contractors.

In addition to the military deaths, there have been 164 civilian deaths, nine dependent deaths and 60 contractor deaths, according to the Pentagon data.



Gen. Frank McKenzie, commander of U.S. Central Command, will give the keynote remarks at The Middle East Institute’s Central Command Annual Conference at 9:15 a.m.


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