How Can I Best Protect Military Recruiting Offices?

Written by Greg Ellifritz

Topics: Reader Questions

  • SumoMe

Written by: Greg Ellifritz

Not the best tactical plan


After last month’s terrorist attack against two military recruiting offices in Chattanooga, Tennessee, armed citizens nationwide have decided that the military members working in these offices need better protection. Per government regulations, most staff at recruiting offices are not allowed to be armed. Local police departments don’t have the resources to assign a full time officer to protect these locations. This obviously leaves the recruiting offices unprotected. Armed citizens are attempting to provide the missing protection by standing outside the offices with guns as a visual deterrent for any would-be terrorists contemplating a copycat attack.


One of my readers is attempting to organize a group of gun owners to protect his local recruiting office. He sent me the following question (edited for brevity and to conceal his identity):


“I’m still trying to work out a sensible way to help out guarding the recruiting centers. We can’t be inside the place, and there is no open carry law in (xxx state) so we can’t stand out in front in the parking lot with our AR-15s. And on top of that, it isn’t legal to carry concealed unless you have a license (which I have but not everyone in our group does.)


All I’ve come up with so far is to sit in the parking lot in the car and keep watch. The problem with that is that a terrorist will hit hard and fast. Unless we are right there, ready to go, they will be in and out before we can take any action.


Our local Marine office could be attacked from either front or back. And in the back there is a tree line that is actually in the back yards of homes on the street behind the center. I don’t see a good way to cover both at the same time. I guess one could park a car at the end of the parking lot and then partially cover both front and back.


So I thought at first it was a great idea and a good thing to do, but I am gradually coming to the conclusion that there isn’t any good way to really make a difference. Not being able to stand out in the open is both good and bad. The bad is that you are not a visible deterrence and the good is that you aren’t so likely to be the first one shot.


Maybe it’s better to be there in the parking lot, better than nothing at least. It might be possible to engage the attackers, even though it might be too late for the guys inside. As you know, they are not allowed to be armed (stupid!) and they are advised to not wear uniforms. Indeed, when I visited them last week, the two guys were in civvies.


I don’t know what to do. Any thoughts?”


Here is my response. My thoughts are general tactical guidelines regarding the kind of things I would be thinking about if I were guarding a recruiting center. The advice may not apply to your individual location, so don’t blindly follow my advice if it doesn’t fit your situation or wouldn’t work given your particular skill levels. Use the information, but think for yourself and tailor a plan to best fit your individual circumstances.


The first thing to ask yourself is “Are Military recruiting centers a likely target in the future?” I believe the answer to that question is still “yes.” Islamic terrorists see our military members (especially the unarmed ones) as a very vulnerable target. This remains true worldwide. Think about the British soldier whose head was chopped off on a public street outside a military base in England last year. Our military stationed stateside are vulnerable and the Islamic terrorists know that. I think the recruiting offices will remain a likely terrorism target for some time in the future.


The mistake that many folks will make is to assume that a future attack will look just like the previous attacks because the targets are similar. To assume that would be a serious error. We know that Islamic terrorists are very smart about a lot of their attacks. They study previous attacks, both here and abroad and learn from their prior mistakes. A future attack on a military recruiting station is likely to look very different from the Chattanooga attack and will likely be far more effective.


I think going low profile in a car in the parking lot is the better solution. You are right that it won’t be a deterrent, but I think a well planned attack wouldn’t be too dissuaded by a single guy standing guard outside. They would just plan to take him out first. If I was in the terrorist cell, I would intentionally target the recruiting centers with volunteer civilian guards. It would better play to the media. The terrorists want Americans to think that there is no way we can protect ourselves from their wrath. A successful hit on a guarded center would be a major PR coup for the bad guys.


If I were planning a terrorist hit on a military recruiting center, I would use two attackers. One would be armed with a scoped rifle a couple hundred yards away. He would be concealed in a mobile vehicle hide (similar to the “D.C. Snipers” some years ago). Ideally the concealed sniper would also have a driver to facilitate a quicker getaway and provide another gun in the event that police stop the fleeing vehicle.


The second attacker would be in another vehicle (ideally a heavier truck). The sniper would initiate the attack and take out the civilian guards standing out in front of the office. The second attacker would drive the car right through the front door of the recruiting center (and over the bodies of any of the civilian guards who were not yet dead). Once inside, he would exit the truck and then shoot the place up. He could leave an improvised explosive device in the vehicle to target first responders and finish off anyone he didn’t kill with the shooting attack.


The sniper would cover the driver’s back from responding cops as he shot up the place and then cover his retreat to another getaway car they had parked nearby. If they kept the attack under two minutes, they would have close to a 100% success rate. They would be in and out before the cops arrived. If a cop happened to stumble upon the shooting in progress, the sniper would take him out before he got out of his cruiser.


As a civilian guard, you are right in assuming that the attack will happen fast and you may not be too likely to have much of an effect on the outcome. Where I think a lot of the civilian guard forces are dropping the ball is that they aren’t considering how they can be effective before the gunfighting begins. These terrorists pre-plan all of their operations. An alert guard may catch them as they do their recon. If reported to the police, it might stop the attack before it happens.


In that role, again the visible guard would not be as effective. The bad guys would do the recon from farther away. A roving guard in the parking lot may be able to catch the terrorists if they slip during the planning stage.


If I was guarding the facility, I would be in a car, but I would move regularly. A single car stationary in an “overwatch” position is easy to pick out. If you are made, you will have the same problem that you would have if you were a guard standing watch at the front door. The terrorists would simply target you in your car instead of standing in front of the facility when they initiated the attack.


As to the issue of positioning in either the front or back of the facility, I would assess each position from the point of view of the attacker. Which would make for an easier target? I would spend most of my time watching that position. Inside the vehicle I would most likely arm myself with an AR-15 rifle with a low powered (something like 1-4X) magnified optic. The rifle would be quick and handy for any close range encounters, but would also be able to identify and hit a sniper up to 300 meters away. I would be wearing ceramic rifle plates carried in a “slick” carrier hidden under a loose shirt or jacket. I would also have a police scanner and a pair of powerful binoculars in the car.


One other thing to add is that I would let the staff inside the recruiting center and the local police know what you are doing. Give them your group’s license plate numbers and vehicle descriptions. People are very jumpy these days. It wouldn’t be good to be mistaken for a terrorist by the responding officers if the gunfire starts.


I hope this article provides some guidance for any of our dedicated armed citizens who want to help protect our soldiers stationed here in the USA. If you are ever in such a role, spend some time thinking like a terrorist. The best way to design a protection detail is to figure out the most effective and likely attack strategies.





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9 Comments For This Post I'd Love to Hear Yours!

  1. caleb says:


    That was really well thought out Greg.


  2. Reuben says:

    I agree with a lot of your points, well thought out and definitely applies to many other locations – not just military or police.

    A suicidal bad guy could easily drive through the front window and set off an explosive, taking out the civilian guards and military staff inside. A second bad guy could turn up and pick off survivors and people running away, or they might just hang around capturing it all on video for PR.

    Not sure how you’d be able to do anything to prevent that scenario, apart from take out the second bad guy (if he’s a threat).

    Also interested to hear your thoughts on how a small group of civilians might start the process of securing the scene and not become targets for incoming law enforcement.

  3. vxxc2014 says:


    Yes I’m in uniform Stateside. Yes I’ve deployed repeatedly.

    I think by your presence your going to hopelessly complicate an actual terrorist plot but far more importantly *you are showing us something very, very important to us and to the country*. Far beyond cheering us up you are showing *YOU WILL FIGHT*.

    THANK YOU. Sometimes it’s all worth it.

    This is the debates we need to be having THANK YOU.

  4. vxxc2014 says:

    Greg this for us is like watching a loved one awake from a coma.

    Send more!

    And don’t over worry folks about how. Bring weapons and ammo the rest you know enough to make your point.


  5. Old 1811 says:

    The problem with being “covert” in a car is that unless you change cars, people, and locations often, you will be made by the most rudimentary target surveillance. And, as has been said, the action will probably be too fast for a car-borne surveillant to react effectively.
    Case in point: the 1986 Miami FBI shootout. Even though some of the agents had shotguns in their cars, none deployed them. The shooting started so fast that none of them took the time to grab a shotgun, and only deployed with their pistols.(Special Agent Ed Mireles used an 870 at the very end, as the shooters were trying to escape. But he finished the job with a pistol.)
    Of course, some of the Feebs had their shotguns in the trunk, and therefore inaccessible. But . . . are nonsworn people with no official status well-advised to keep a rifle uncased and visible to anyone walking by their vehicle in a public parking lot? What do they do with it when they have to go to the bathroom?
    Speaking as someone who has done a lot of surveillance, it’s not as simple or foolproof as a lot of people think it is.
    These are just some of the tactical problems. Don’t get me started on all the legal reasons the whole thing is a bad idea.

    • vxxc2014 says:

      It’s only slightly less a bad idea than risking your life at all.

      However it’s a great idea compared to: lay down and die – which is always legal of course and that also pleases lawyers or so it seems.

      It happens to be great for the Troops to see this as it’s been a rough 14 years.

      It’s great for the country for people to say we won’t lay down and die nor let our defenders be slaughtered like cattle as they were unarmed due to legal considerations.

      Whatever gets people being brave again is a good idea.

      For tactics we have training or wits, for legalities we have lawyers. Afterwards.

  6. Old 1811 says:

    I told you not to get me started, but you didn’t listen, so here goes:
    First of all, the act of guarding a recruiting station confers no legal status on you. You are not the police and not a licensed security guard, and you have no powers of arrest and no duty to pursue and apprehend. You cannot arrogate those powers and duties on yourself; they have to be conferred by the proper authorities. Legally you are in the same position as if you were hanging around your local convenience store waiting for it to get robbed so you could shoot the robber.
    That said:
    1. Self-defense law: In your state, is the defense of a third party (who did not ask for your help) lawful self-defense? If not, any action you take is probably a crime. Does your state have a duty to retreat if outside the home? If so, and you shoot someone (even a terrorist) while you still have an open avenue of escape, you are committing a crime ranging from aggravated assault to murder. If the shooters turn and flee, are you going to give chase? Are you going to (continue to) fire on them? A fleeing shooter is no longer a threat to you, so if you do, you are committing a crime ranging from aggravated assault to murder.
    2. Injury: If you get hurt during your self-imposed mission to protect a third party who didn’t ask for your help, who pays medical bills? You deliberately and unnecessarily placed yourself in a position of jeopardy; your insurance carrier will almost certainly disallow any claims because of your deliberately reckless conduct, leaving you on the hook for a possibly 6-figure medical bill. Maybe Obamacare will help you with that.
    If you get killed, will your life insurance pay out after you deliberately and unnecessarily placed yourself in a position of great danger? Hope your kids already have their college money put away.
    3. Liability: If you shoot someone during your self-imposed mission, etc., especially if you shoot the wrong person, who will pay your legal bills? You glibly state ” . . . for legalities we have lawyers. . . .”, and you’re correct, but lawyers are expensive. (I used to say the same thing when I was on the job and didn’t have to pay them.) You may remember the recent kerfuffle over the Aurora shooting victim’s family being on the hook for Lucky Gunner’s $220,000 legal bill. Remember, that was the defendant’s bill to defend a frivolous lawsuit that was dismissed almost immediately. If you have to defend yourself against a lawsuit from beginning to end, that bill will easily double. One of the Duke lacrosse defendants had a legal bill of over a million dollars.
    And being “in the right” may not help you. First of all, you may not be “in the right” (see Point 1). Secondly, juries are fickle. A few years ago a major Federal LE agency had to change its search-and-seizure policy as a result of a wrongful-arrest lawsuit. The arresting agent, whose actions were completely lawful and whose testimony was 100% truthful, was such an arrogant jagoff on the stand that he antagonized the entire jury and singlehandedly lost the case.
    During my 30+-year LE career, I was seriously and permanently injured in the line of duty, and I was unsuccessfully sued as a result of actions I took in the line of duty. I thank God that your tax dollars paid for my medical bills and paid the lawyers who defended me in two spurious lawsuits. If you’re standing outside a recruiting station, you’re on your own without that safety net. If you want to jeopardize your family’s future by injecting yourself into someone else’s fight, be my guest. I’m done with that.

  7. vxxc2014 says:

    Again–Whatever gets people being brave again is a good idea.

    For tactics we have training or wits, for legalities we have lawyers. Afterwards.

    >>As for injecting themselves into someone else’s fight: perhaps they don’t think it’s someone else’s fight.<<

    But if you're done, then fine. You stood for 30, that's fine.

    Others aren't done and it's their turn. Some may just be getting started.

    As far as legalities this is why we have juries.

  8. fyrman38 says:

    Vxxc2014, well said. Thank God for most men who feel compelled to step up and help out from time to time, don’t fall into the bureaucratic bull shit some feel the need to spew.