MacDill Air Force Base program lets civilians like Jill Kelley on base without escort

TAMPA — The socialite whose friendship with CIA director David Petraeus touched off a sex scandal that led to his resignation had an ID issued by MacDill Air Force Base allowing her daytime visits to the base whenever she desired.

The ID first issued to Jill Kelley in November 2010 was revoked on Tuesday pending a Pentagon investigation, MacDill officials say.

The ID is one of about 800 issued by MacDill's 6th Air Mobility Wing in a program called Friends of MacDill, which allows select civilians who pass a background check to visit MacDill without being accompanied by someone with a military ID.

The wing serves as something akin to a landlord for other commands at the base, including U.S. Central Command. Petraeus was CentCom's chief from 2008 to 2010. The wing is in charge of base security, and its armed personnel stand watch at MacDill's entry gates.

The program was launched in late 2010 by Col. Lenny Richoux, former wing commander who now serves in Europe.

Kelley obtained the ID four months after Petraeus left CentCom in June 2010 to take command of U.S. troops in Afghanistan. His deputy commander, Marine Gen. John Allen, served as CentCom's acting chief for six weeks after Petraeus' departure.

Kelley's pass was renewed in February 2012.

Allen is himself ensnared in the controversy surrounding Kelley and Petraeus. The Pentagon is investigating emails between Allen and Kelley that may have been inappropriate, according to published reports.

In a recent interview with the Tampa Bay Times, the wing's current commander, Col. Scott DeThomas, described Friends of MacDill as a successful program allowing civilians to visit MacDill's two golf courses, eat at one of several restaurants or go bowling, among other activities.

DeThomas said ID holders "tend to be very active on base."

Richoux told the Times last year that one of the rationales for the program, aside from forging beneficial ties to the community, is to help generate revenue for MacDill's recreational outlets.

"Some people have told me they've lived their whole lives in Tampa and never set foot on the base," Richoux said last year. "They always wondered about what happens here. So I said, 'Well, come on down and see. This is federal property. This belongs to you.' "

The program was by invitation only, and Richoux said he had invited Tampa Bay area business and civic leaders.

Pass holders are fingerprinted and undergo a background check. Some high-security areas of MacDill are off limits and visits are limited to daylight hours.

Timm Sweeney, who runs an international marketing and research firm in Tampa, told the Times last year that the program builds goodwill for the base in Tampa.

"MacDill has a very good vetting process," he said. "It's not like they're just inviting any crazy on the base."

Richoux said Friends of MacDill was approved by Air Force officials, and he said that he also sought the approval and advice of officials at CentCom and U.S. Special Operations Command, which also is located at MacDill.

MacDill declined to release the names of the people on the access list.

William R. Levesque can be reached at levesque@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3432.

MacDill Air Force Base program lets civilians like Jill Kelley on base without escort 11/14/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 14, 2012 4:29pm]

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