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MacDill Air Force Base, veterans hospitals on alert amid tensions with Iran

U.S. installations have increased security as tensions with Iran run high, and that includes the bases and veterans’ facilities in the Tampa Bay area.
MacDill Air Force Base now requires all visitors looking to enter the base to show either Department of Defense ID or valid photo ID with a base pass. [Air Force photo] [HANDOUT  |  Air Force]
MacDill Air Force Base now requires all visitors looking to enter the base to show either Department of Defense ID or valid photo ID with a base pass. [Air Force photo] [HANDOUT | Air Force]
Published Jan. 10
Updated Jan. 12

Local military installations and veterans’ hospitals are on alert after a U.S. airstrike Jan. 3 killed Iran’s senior military commander, raising tensions between U.S. and Iranian leaders.

MacDill Air Force Base, which houses U.S. Central Command that oversees U.S. military operations in the Middle East, implemented new security rules for base entry.

All passengers in vehicles seeking to enter the Tampa base must now present either Department of Defense identification or a valid photo ID with a base pass. That is according to a Jan. 4 statement on the base’s official Facebook page, posted the day after the death of Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani.

A MacDill spokesman declined to go into further detail about ongoing security measures at the base, but added in a statement that “we are always actively monitoring potential threats and will take necessary precautions to protect our people and secure our installation.”

Related: Lockdown at MacDill Air Force Base lifted after report of armed person

Across the bay, Coast Guard’s Sector St. Petersburg base has taken on “additional force protection measures,” as have Coast Guard installations across the country, a spokeswoman said.

U.S. Northern Command, which oversees North American operations, took a similar approach.

"While we will not discuss specifics, U.S. Northern Command is implementing additional force protection condition measures to increase security and awareness for all installations in the U.S. NORTHCOM area of responsibility,” according to a statement.

In response to Iranian threats of retaliation, the Department of Homeland Security issued a National Terrorism Advisory System Bulletin that expires next weekend on Jan. 18.

“At this time we have no information indicating a specific, credible threat to the Homeland,” the bulletin stated, adding that “an attack in the homeland may come with little or no warning.”

The Bay Pines Veterans Affairs Healthcare System also increased its police service presence at the C.W. Bill Young VA Medical Center campus, the Lee County Healthcare Center, and at all community-based outpatient clinics. Patrols were also added to the St. Petersburg Regional Office and Bay Pines National Cemetery.

Visitors to Bay Pines facilities can expect random ID checks including on roadways and in parking lots, an official said.

Employees at the James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital in Tampa were asked to report any suspicious activities, a spokeswoman said.

In retaliation for Soleimani’s death, Iran on Tuesday fired ballistic missiles at two Iraqi military bases housing American troops.

The following day, President Donald Trump said Iran appears to be “standing down” after the missile strike, but tensions are still running high between the two nations. The Trump administration on Friday announced new economic sanctions against Iran.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story had the wrong date for the U.S. airstrike that killed Iranian Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani.


  1. Suzi Goodhope of Havana, Fla., and Shiraz, an 11-year-old Belgian Malinois, are helping in the search for an African American cemetery forgotten somewhere on the grounds of MacDill Air Force Base. Goodhope trains human-remains detection dogs in Havana, Fla.
  2. Like the rest of Florida, and Tampa in particular, MacDill Air Force Base treated African Americans as second class citizens in its early days during World War II. The history is surfacing again as archaeologists prepare to search for graves that might have been left behind in a black cemetery when the base was developed.
  3. Communication is the goal as a blindfolded Robert Simison, retired Army Sgt. 1st Class, navigates an obstacle course under the direction of fiancee Jamie Boate. The two are taking part in couples therapy for Special Operations Forces families.
  4. New Air Force dress guidelines released Feb. 7, 2020 set standards allowing personnel to wear turbans, hijabs and beards.
  5. Concerns about the boom pod on a KC-135 Stratonker, like the one pictured here, prompted an emergency landing at MacDill Air Force Base while the jet was being used as a flying classroom.
  6. FILE - In this Aug. 19, 2019, file photo, a man waves an Afghan flag during Independence Day celebrations in Kabul, Afghanistan. An Afghan official Sunday, Feb. 9, 2020, said multiple U.S. military deaths have been reported in Afghanistan's Nangarhar province after an insider attack by a man wearing an Afghan army uniform. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool, File)
  7. National Security Council aide Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman testifies before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019, during a public impeachment hearing of President Donald Trump's efforts to tie U.S. aid for Ukraine to investigations of his political opponents. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
  8. Sam Flores admires a new statue of his late brother, William Flores, Monday at the U.S. Coast Guard Sector, St. Petersburg. The statue honors William Flores, who helped save fellow crew members on the US Coast Guard vessel Blackthorn when it sank on January 28, 1980. Twenty three crew members died.
  9. Jessica Purcell of St. Petersburg, a captain in the Army Reserve, was pregnant with son Jameson when she was told at a MacDill Air Force Base clinic not to worry about lumps under her arm. She now is diagnosed stage 4 cancer. Jameson is 10 months old.
  10. This undated file photo provided by the FBI shows Mohammed Alshamrani. The United States is preparing to remove more than a dozen Saudi military students from a training program and return them to their home country after an investigation into a deadly shooting by Saudi aviation student Alshamrani at a Florida navy base in December 2019, a U.S. official told The Associated Press.
  11. MacDill Air Force Base now requires all visitors looking to enter the base to show either Department of Defense ID or valid photo ID with a base pass. [Air Force photo]
  12. MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa was briefly on lockdown Friday morning after reports of an armed person near the Tanker Way Gage. The lockdown has been lifted and all gates except the Tanker Way Gate have been lifted.