Newly armed MS National Guard recruiters return to offices

Newly armed MS National Guard recruiters return to offices

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Mississippi National Guard recruiters returned, armed, to their storefront offices Monday for the first time since four Marines and a Navy Petty Officer were shot and killed at a Navy recruiting office in Tennessee.

Gov. Phil Bryant issued an executive order on July 20 that allowed the National Guard to arm full-time military personnel at military facilities. The order also closed 10 storefront recruiting centers across the state, and moved recruiters to National Guard armories.

The Hattiesburg storefront relocated to the 184th Sustainment Command in Laurel.

Gen. Augustus Collins, Adjutant General of Mississippi, was in Hattiesburg Tuesday for the Hardy Street recruiting center opening.

"It's important to let the community know that we're back on the job," Collins said. "We never stopped recruiting. We just had to relocate for a couple of days until we could assess the situation and determine how we needed to change our security measures. Now we think we've got a pretty good plan in place, so all of our recruiters are back in their storefronts the way they were two weeks ago."

Gen. Collins said one of the most noticeable increased security measures is armed soldiers and airmen at recruiting centers across the state.

"It is a change," Collins said. "We did not have armed soldiers and airmen in our communities. With the changing situation in the United States now and around the world, we feel we need to supply more security for them."

Sgt. 1st Class Michael Nobles, a recruiter from the Hattiesburg storefront, said many in his office are used to being armed.

"Most of us here are law enforcement or prior law enforcement, either military police or civilian," Nobles said. "We are accustomed to carrying handguns. That's not new for us. We want to ensure the public that we are highly trained and that's just a security measure for us."

As recruiting returns to normal, Nobles said military police armored vehicles will be parked outside to draw interest.

"We thought it would be a good idea to bring it out, let them know that we're still here," Nobles said. "We serve the community and here are some things we can do to spark interest."

Gen. Collins said the National Guard continues to remember the military members killed in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

"Our thoughts and prayers continue to go out to the Marines up in Tennessee, the ones who laid down their lives while they were performing their jobs as well as their families during their time of bereavement," Collins said.  "Just want to let them know that we're thinking about them, and they're in our prayers."