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Naval Station Newport changes base access policy

Naval Station Newport. (DAILY NEWS/Observer-Dispatch/TNS)

The Vietnam War veteran whose wife was barred from joining him on a shopping trip at Naval Station Newport in January said Monday he’s “gratified” for the recent policy change, which now allows plus-ones.

As of Jan. 1, military base privileges were expanded to include veterans who are Purple Heart recipients, former prisoners-of-war and those who have any service-connected disabilities, according to information from the U.S. Army website. Michael J. Piazza, a Purple Heart recipient, was among approximately four million newly-qualified veterans.

But there were snags with the rollout of Section 1065 of Title 10, United States Code. Piazza and his wife, Marsha, experienced those snags first hand in mid-January. The Cumberland couple had planned on shopping together one day at Naval Station Newport but instead drove home when they were told Michael could enter the base, just not with his wife, who was offered a seat if she chose to wait, Piazza told The Daily News previously.

But the policy at Naval Station Newport has since been updated.

“The Naval Station Commanding Officer now allows [newly eligible veterans and qualified caregivers] to have ONE additional individual with them the days of [sic] they visit the base for their authorized services,” Kalen Arreola, deputy public affairs officer with Naval Station Newport, said in an email to The Daily News on Monday. “That additional person must have a background check, just like the veteran, prior to coming on and will receive a one-day pass. This additional person will not receive a Defense Biometric Identification Card and will not be authorized access onto the base alone – they must accompany the veteran [or qualified caregiver].”

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“They must come to the [P]ass and ID office to get a background check done and fill in a Form 5512 with 2 forms of ID,” Arreola added. “They cannot go elsewhere for the check. The address is 299 Cloyne Court, Newport…They get an answer on the spot.”

Arreola said the policy update was published on Feb. 7. The Daily News first published an article about Piazza and base access on Feb. 5.

Piazza said he’s “very, very happy” with the tweaked policy. “I don’t want to drive all the way down there by myself,” he said. Plus, “My wife does all the shopping…I’d be wandering around aimlessly.”

“This is going to be helpful to a lot of veterans,” he added.

Edward Campbell of Tiverton, a newly-qualified Army veteran who served in Vietnam from June 1970 through May 1971, had an issue earlier this month while trying to enter the base with a friend, he told The Daily News on Monday.

“I’m glad they did it,” Campbell said Monday when told of the tweaked policy which now allows plus-ones for qualified veterans and caregivers. “But it’s long overdue.”

“The initial guidelines we received were unclear on this topic of additional guests and, given recent security events on other installations around the world, we were not focusing on possible options for expanding access,” Arreola said in an email Monday.

“Our leadership team re-visited the guidelines for implementation of the new Veteran Access policy that took effect Jan. 1, 2020 and followed up with our higher headquarters security office for their recommendations on the allowing the additional guest. We also checked with other installations regarding how they are interpreting the guidelines. Please remember that any policies pertaining to installation security are at the Commanding Officer’s discretion to adjust based on the security assessments.”

“We are pleased to be able to allow our disabled veterans this privilege now,” Arreola added. “We are seeing quite a few new faces around the base, in the commissary, at the Naval Exchange and elsewhere. All are very happy about this change.”

“I’m thankful at least it’s working in Newport,” Piazza said. “Being a veteran…any kind of military installation, it seems like home when you go on it…That feeling, that nostalgia feeling…it’s a great thing, it really is.”

Those with questions regarding base access procedure can call 401-841-3126 or click here for more information.

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© 2020 Newport Daily News