Volunteer Mounted Airport Security


December 20, 2003, 08:21 AM
No mention of whether CCWs will be allowed. Interesting concept though. You mean to tell me that volunteers can do things that paid gubmint employees would have to do otherwise?


Mounted `Rangers' set up to patrol Intercontinental
Copyright 2003 Houston Chronicle

The Old West phrase "riding the fenceline" is taking on a whole new meaning when it comes to security at Houston's largest airport.

The Houston Airport System on Friday announced the formation of a mounted security patrol made up of volunteers, including off-duty law enforcement officers.

In return for keeping an eye out for bad guys, equestrians will have a new place to ride -- along trails being created around the perimeter of George Bush Intercontinental Airport.

The mounted patrols will be called "Airport Rangers."

They won't be paid, but finding new trails is a big plus these days as urbanization spreads outward.

The fact the new program is steeped in Texas history probably won't hurt, either.

The idea was the brainchild of Airport Director Rick Vacar, a longtime horseman. He noted that the airport contains some 11,000 total acres to keep an eye on.

With threats such as terrorists toting shoulder-launched surface-to-air missiles looming large in the minds of airport managers since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Vacar said the mere presence of the mounted trail riders likely will act as a deterrent to outlaws.

No other airports in the country have similar programs, according to Houston airport officials, who expect that success in this program could spawn similar programs in other parts of the country.

The program is not just open to anybody who happens to have a horse, said Mark Mancuso, head of security for the airports.

Background checks will be conducted of all participants before photo identification airport badges are issued for access to remote airport property.

The riders must be equipped with cell phones, so they will be able to call for law enforcement if they spot suspicious activity. The trails are well-marked to give them points of reference, Mancuso said.

Airport officials said the cost of installing the trails should be minimal. A forester who already works with the airport and other employees will provide the necessary trail maintenance.

"This is a win-win situation," Vacar said. "Local horsemen and women have a pristine location to ride, and the airport has extra eyes and ears in areas that most security patrols cannot easily access."

The airport director made the announcement from the saddle of his horse, Lad.

A study was launched earlier this year by Houston airport officials to look at every aspect of security in the airport system.

"So much focus is centered on the terminals and baggage, we wanted to make sure all areas of airport security are covered," Mancuso said.

Airport officials approached the local equestrian community before proceeding with the project and received an enthusiastic response.

"This is probably one of the better things that has happened to the Houston equine community in a long time," said Jerry Thames, president of the Texas Horse Council. "Without a doubt."

Thames' sentiment was echoed by Les Chow, who owns and operates Aldine Westfield Stables at 19907 Aldine-Westfield.

"I am very supportive," Chow said. "This area has seen a lot of urbanization and the trails were slowly disappearing; but this will bring back quite a bit."

Pam Wiman, a reserve captain with the Harris County Sheriff's Office Mounted Patrol, called the trails put in so far "awesome."

The initial trail is 5.1 miles. Plans call for another five-mile trail to open soon, with the ultimate goal of having 25 miles spanning almost the entire perimeter of the airport.

Along the trails, airport officials are installing watering troughs, portable toilets, trash containers and large granite stones for sitting. Parking for horse trailers also will be provided.

"We kept the trails very rustic," airport system Deputy Director Tom Bartlett said. "But we did add some amenities that include areas for the horses and riders to stop for a break."

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Navy joe
December 20, 2003, 08:45 AM
Upon finding a lurking terrorist it will be mandatory for the Airport Ranger to announce their authority by stating, "Yippee-Ki-Yay, :cuss: "

Sounds cool, my bets are no guns allowed.

December 20, 2003, 12:47 PM
You can bet your riding tack that the lawdogs will have firearms. They probably won't want non-leos' to have them. You know, the typical elitist attitude.

I always wondered if you volunteer to search in the woods, forests, mountains, etc. for a lost child or missing person, if the leos' in charge will say "No weapons allowed".

Mark Tyson
December 20, 2003, 12:55 PM
Maybe they could have some kind of simple training and evaluation program for CCW holders who want to patrol armed. This would be weed out any wannabes and provide legal CYA.

December 20, 2003, 02:11 PM
You'd think that the original background check for getting the CCW combined with the one they will run before you get the Airport ID would weed out the truly whacked...??

heck - just the part where they are looking for volunteer civilians to assist makes me smile.

December 20, 2003, 08:24 PM
I always wondered if you volunteer to search in the woods, forests, mountains, etc. for a lost child or missing person, if the leos' in charge will say "No weapons allowed".
I've been on a couple searches, and that's never been mentioned to me.

The last one was just this fall during hunting season (missing hunter), and well after dark, of course.

I would un-volunteer if I had to disarm.

December 21, 2003, 02:17 PM
Tallpine, did you find the hunter? Why was he lost? Unable to read a compass? I could put my name in the drawing for some hunts where a compass is recommended, but just in case there is more to it than I know about (which is almost nothing), I will pass. Oh, and I also agree that I would not disarm either. We are the ones that are helping the authorities by volunteering in the 1st place. Of course, if I was lost, I would want someone to look for me.

December 21, 2003, 02:39 PM

No, we didn't exactly find him ... he finally shows up at a ranch house about six miles away from where he is supposed to be, trespassing most of the way.

He was supposed to be hunting only on a single section (square mile, for you eastern folks) of state land, surrounded by private land.

We were all happy to go back home, but not so happy about this doofus getting us out of bed. I really thought that we would find him with a broken neck in the bottom of a coulee, or dead from a heart attack. I mean, how does anyone get lost on a fenced 640 acres ...? :rolleyes:

BTW, "don't ask, don't tell" is the best policy on carrying a handgun. Up here, it is "Vermont carry" outside of city limits.

December 21, 2003, 09:57 PM
I was wondering about this. I flew through IAH on Friday and there has been a bunch of activity and construction recently. It looks like they are redoing some of the runways, but what really caught my eye was the clear cut they did on the trees along the outer fence. It use to be that one could cut through the trees on the north and east border of the airport and come within 20 yards of the fence guarding the runways. It looks like that has been cut back to 100 yards of clearance. Looks like these rangers may be on the outside of the airport fenceline.

December 21, 2003, 10:15 PM
Texas has a State Guard that should be doing this already. Why organize an entirely new organization when you've got an excellent State Guard rearing to go?

If this happened in Massachusetts, I would be a little ticked.

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