US base wins security accolade
PROTESTORS have reacted with shock after an American airbase won a prestigious security award – despite having their grounds breached on several occasions in recent years.
PROTESTORS have reacted with shock after an American airbase won a prestigious security award - despite having their grounds breached on several occasions in recent years.
The 48th Security Forces Squadron at RAF Lakenheath won the award in recognition of their participation in Operation Iraqi Freedom and the base's performance during external inspections.
But the award has come under fire from peace protestors who breached security at the American airbase during a string of protests against the removal of nuclear weapons they claim are on the base and the conflict in Iraq.
Local protestor Leslie Graham, a member of Lakenheath Action Group, said: "I am beyond surprise that they have received this award.
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"When we were outside the main gates at Lakenheath last year, we were chatting on our phones to fellow protestors inside the base.
"So for RAF Lakenheath to receive an award for security is an ironic laugh."
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But base officials claimed security was paramount at Lakenheath and said the award was a tribute to the hard work of the troops.
A spokesman for the base said: "All appropriate steps were taken and are being taken to ensure there is more than adequate security at Lakenheath.
"The award is a testament to how well our security forces do their jobs."
The squadron beat off the challenge of security force squadrons from throughout Europe to win the 2003 US Air Forces in Europe Outstanding Security Forces Large Unit Award.
Squadron commander Lt Col William Delaney said: "Security forces units of all shapes and sizes conquer their missions with a lot of blood, sweat and tears every single day.
"This unit is no different than the others. I'm grateful the troops can see those outside of Lakenheath recognise their hard work.
"Everybody contributed - active-duty Air Force, Army Guard, US and Ministry of Defence civilians, and the MoD police. I'm extremely proud of them."
Campaigners congregated on RAF Lakenheath and RAF Mildenhall during a series of protests last year criticising the war with Iraq and claiming Lakenheath housed 30 nuclear bombs on site.
During the most high-profile demonstration, anti-war protestors grounded fighter jets at RAF Lakenheath after breaking in and riding bicycles on the main runway.
They then chained themselves together with locks fastened around their necks.