Fort Gordon officers will begin late-night courtesy patrols in downtown Augusta and other popular retail areas Wednesday as part of a “renewed emphasis on the standards of conduct, discipline and military values” honored at the Army post, officials announced.
The patrols will consist of one officer and two noncommissioned officers who will visit locations including downtown and Augusta Mall from 5 p.m. to 6 a.m. on weekdays, and around-the-clock on weekends and holidays.
Post officials stressed that the courtesy patrol will act as a representative of the chain of command, not as a law enforcement tool.
Patrol officers who observe a service member in a situation that requires attention will identify themselves and intervene. If that does not resolve the situation, they will contact local authorities or military police on post, said Command Sgt. Maj. Kenneth Stockton, who is overseeing the courtesy patrol program for the Fort Gordon Garrison Command.
“Our nation has been at war for the past 12 years,” Stockton said. “This is part of getting back to the basics.”
With the elimination of 12 combat brigades and 80,000 soldiers across the U.S., the Army announced last month Fort Gordon would actually see its troop levels increase 250 spaces by 2019 in order to make the country more “lethal, agile, adaptable and responsive” to emerging cyber threats.
In charge of soldier discipline and training at Fort Gordon, Stockton said courtesy patrol officers will work in dress uniform and wear an arm band labeled “courtesy patrol” to be highly visible to establishment owners if a situation arises.
“I believe this program will have a positive affect on Fort Gordon and the surrounding area,” Stockton said. “It will build stronger relationships with businesses, officials and residents across the region.”
Fort Gordon officials said the post used courtesy patrol in the past, but not since its “early years.”
“Courtesy patrols are nothing new,” said spokesman Buz Yarnell, who added he was subject to such patrols when he served in Korea. “These programs have been in existence for decades and are currently in operation at other installations, including some overseas.”
He said officials say that from Fort Wainwright in Alaska to Fort Benning in Columbus, Ga., courtesy patrols have proved effective in ensuring that service members meet expectations in conduct and discipline.
On weekdays, on-post courtesy patrols will be made up of a soldier and a sister service member. On weekends and holidays, the group will increase to two soldiers and two sister service members.
Each team will tour the post from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily to check such things as appropriate attire and conduct.
Yarnell said the program is zero tolerance.
“If a service member encounters a courtesy patrol, on or off duty, and they instruct the service member to do something, that service member should comply as if their commander gave them the same instructions,” he said.