LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. --
LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. -- The 56th Fighter Wing will shift base access from the Kachina Gate to the Lightning Gate, Nov. 8, 2020.
The Lightning Gate hours of operation are 5 a.m. to 9 p.m daily. In addition, the Kachina Gate will be closed beginning Nov. 8 until further notice. While South Gate operations will not change, a second visitor center will open at the Lightning Gate to support guests of base residents and employees. Commercial vehicles will have to continue using the South Gate visitor center.
“The main reason to shift from Kachina Gate to Lightning Gate was to support the local community,” said Master Sgt. Reuben Weeks, 56th Security Forces Squadron noncommissioned officer in charge of operations. “The local community is doing construction on Glendale Avenue. By relocating over to the Lightning Gate, we’re going to shift traffic patterns off of that road and clear it up for that construction.”
Opening the Lightning Gate supports the base community as well. Lightning Gate provides quick access to the Base Exchange, block house, medical group and other major facilities without adding additional driving time from South Gate.
“I can tell you as someone who lives on base, if I have a late day and I'm … trying to get back to base housing, it gets pretty congested just the same way it does in the morning,” said Staff Sgt. Willie Johnican, 56th SFS visitor center element leader. “With those cars being able to turn and go off toward Lightning, I feel like now it should be an easier straight shot for me to go home.”
Changing gates will also help with traffic safety.
“With Lightning Gate having a much longer entrance than Kachina does, more cars can come in,” said Johnican. “Right now they have to just sit on Glendale until space clears and they can pull in, so that can be dangerous.”
A second visitor center is scheduled to open at the Lightning Gate in the future. The center will allow Security Forces to separate the mission sets to allow for a more fluid entry to the installation.
“South Gate’s visitor center will remain in place for commercial passes and commercial vehicles and vetting of that nature,” said Weeks. “However, Lightning Gate will become what we commonly refer to as our Visitor Control Center, or VCC. It will be a visitor reception center for personnel requesting passes for just basic access.”
The goal of the Lightning Gate visitor center is to redirect civilian traffic out of the South Gate visitor center allowing the South Gate VCC to be used solely for operational purposes.
“We are protecting people and property, and at the at the end of the day we're trying to ensure that our base residents, active duty personnel, civilian contractors, and our VA card holders all have a safe and clear way to enter the base,” said Weeks. “Ultimately what we're trying to do is ensure mission success at the end of the day, our assets are people.”