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]
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, 2020|Updated Jan. 12, 2020

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.