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US to lift Saudi military training ban in ‘days’

Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper meets with U.S. Army Patriot missile specialists during a visit to Prince Sultan Air Base in Al Kharj, Saudi Arabia, Oct. 22, 2019. (DoD photo by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Nicole Mejia)
January 17, 2020

The United States military will soon restart training Saudi students again less than two months after a Saudi service member carried out a deadly shooting at a Pensacola Navy base on Dec. 6.

The Pentagon stopped all training for nearly six weeks for the approximately 850 Saudi students due to concern there might be someone involved in the shooting it didn’t know about, the Associated Press reported Thursday.

“We’re looking forward to turning it back on in the coming days,” Jonathan Hoffman, chief spokesman for the Defense Department, said this week.

He added that officials will probably make an announcement soon, as well as an announcement that the military will add an additional screening process for increased security on U.S. bases.

The Justice Department said 21 students were being sent home on Monday after the U.S. completed security screenings of all the students.

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The students were removed for either jihadist or anti-American activity, or had “contact with child pornography,” officials said.

On Dec. 6, Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani, an aviation student from Saudi Arabia, opened fire in a classroom at the Naval Air Station Pensacola, killing three people in the attack.

The Saudi government quickly condemned the attack while U.S. officials investigated it for possible links to terrorism.

Since the shooting, the Marine Corps announced a policy change that allows Marines and civilians in Marine Corps law enforcement to conceal personal firearms on bases.

“These tragic events prompted Headquarters Marine Corps (HQMC) to accelerate existing efforts to develop concealed carry policies,” states the memo, released by Lt. Gen. George Smith, Deputy Commandant, Plans, Policies, and Operations.

The new policy “authorizes the Commandant of the Marine Corps (CMC) to grant permission to Marine Corps uniformed and civilian personnel to carry a POF aboard Marine Corps property for personal protection not in the performance of official duties or status.”

The policy change does not apply to classrooms or courtrooms unless previously authorized by the military judge, or where otherwise prohibited by law.

Marine Corps spokesman Captain Joseph Butterfield said an estimated 3,200 individuals will be eligible to carry their personal firearms under the new policy.

The new policy makes sense, given that military law enforcement personnel are well-trained in firearms, Dakota Wood, a retired Marine Corps officer, told the Washington Examiner.

“So it would seem kind of silly, at least it has been to me, that you would have somebody fully trained and authorized by the service to carry a weapon when they are in uniform in an active law enforcement role, but then they are somehow irresponsible or they couldn’t use that same tool in similar circumstances if they’re not in a duty status,” said Wood, who added that he believes the same privileges shouldn’t be given to all Marines.

Other increased security measures have been made by the U.S. military following the shooting, which occurred two days after a separate shooting at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii on Dec. 4.

Navy sailor Gabriel Antonio Romero shot and killed two Defense Department workers, Vincent Kapoi and Roldan Agustin, at the base. Romero killed himself at the scene

U.S. Northern Command, known as Northcom, said on Twitter that it directed its installations to “immediately assess force protection measures and implement increased random security measures for their facilities,” although details of the increased security measures were left out.