INDIAN SPRINGS — Metro police arrested Father Louis Vitale and 33 others for trespassing and blocking a road at Creech Air Force Base where 140 peace activists had gathered early Friday to protest U.S. drone operations in the Middle East and Afghanistan.
Overseas operations involving unmanned Predator and Reaper aircraft are controlled remotely via satellite links at the base, 45 miles northwest of Las Vegas, by pilots and sensor operators who sit at computer consoles.
The protesters, who had camped out this week across from the base to prepare for civil disobedience actions, blame U.S. drones for killing innocent civilians in attempts by the Air Force and the CIA to curb overseas terrorist attacks with laser-guided Hellfire missiles and bombs, in the case of Reapers, fired from drones.
“Shut down Creech!” the throng chanted after Las Vegas police gave a 5-minute warning for the crowd to disperse at 7:20 a.m.
“This is an outrage to God and the universe,” Vitale, a Franciscan priest from Oakland, Calif., said as he knelt on a white line on an entrance road.
“Here we are reaching out thousands of miles away and killing people. It’s a horrible thing,” he said as police approached to apprehend him. “I have talked to people here that work on the drones … scared to death and say, ‘I love the Air Force but can’t stand what I do.’ ”
The protest was nonviolent. No one was injured.
Creech officials provided a reaction to a Review-Journal query early in the week that quotes the 432nd Wing commander, Col. Jim Cluff.
“We respect the members’ rights to protest peacefully, and as we’ve done in the past,” he said. “We are working closely with civilian law enforcement to ensure safety of those entering and exiting the base, as well as the safety of those protesting off base.”
In all, 34 men, women and two juveniles were arrested in four waves of civil disobedience actions near base entrances. They were cited and released on state misdemeanor charges of trespass or pedestrian in the roadway. One person was arrested on an outstanding warrant, according to Las Vegas police.
The protest was organized by contingents of peace and faith-based activists, including those from the Nevada Desert Experience, Veterans for Peace and Code Pink: Women for Peace.
A Vietnam War Navy veteran, Phil Frank, of Indian Springs, protested the protesters.
“I consider myself an American patriot,” he said, standing by a sign that reads “RPA’s (remotely piloted aircraft) Protect Freedom. God Bless Our Troops.”
“I believe our military has our country’s best interest at mind, and this program is helping to keep our families safe, our country safe. That’s what it amounts to,” Frank said as protesters walked from their makeshift Camp Justice across U.S. 95 to a Creech base access road.
Nick Mottern, who produced and funded a 15-second TV spot that urges drone operators to refuse to fly them on military missions, responded to an email asking what is the solution to stopping terrorist acts that kill innocent people.
“Americans have been led to believe in the fantasy that drones are special weapons that can stop ‘terrorism,’” he wrote. “But the solution to ‘terrorism’ is obviously not for the United States to do more killing. The answer must begin with the United States stopping its part in the cycle of killing in the Middle East and Afghanistan, ending its occupation there, and allowing people to resolve their own issues.”
Cluff reacted to the TV spot and a statement by Jackie Barshak, of Women for Peace, who urged him to stop deadly drone violence. In an email, he said his wing’s primary mission “is intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) first. Precision strike, or kinetic engagement, only occurs when needed and when the appropriate approval clearances, and rules of engagement have been met.
“That being said, our combatant commanders expect and demand unique ISR capabilities that only the Air Force can provide, and we will continue to strive to meet those demands 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days year,” Cluff said.
Contact Keith Rogers at email@example.com or 702-383-0308. Find him on Twitter: @KeithRogers2
CREECH AIR FORCE BASE
Posted 7/12/2012 Printable Fact Sheet
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|The Creech AFB Main Gate is on U.S. Highway 95, at the north end of the small town of Indian Springs, Nev. Creech is home to the Predator unmanned aerial vehicle, and is one of two emergency divert airfields for the 15,000-square-mile Nevada Test and Training Range Complex. The base is located about 45 miles northwest of Nellis AFB. (U.S. Air Force photo)
Today, Creech Air Force Base, Nev., is the home to the famed “Hunters” of the 432d Wing and 432d Air Expeditionary Wing. The base also hosts the operations of the 556th Test and Evaluation Squadron and 99th Ground Combat Training Squadron, and those of the Air Force Reserve’s 78th Reconnaissance Squadron and Nevada Air National Guard’s 232d Operations Squadron.
The base was established in the aftermath of the devastating December 7, 1941, aerial attack on Pearl Harbor, a horrific event that thrust America and a newly organized US Army Air Forces into World War II. Initially a “tent city” military training camp, in March 1942 efforts began to construct more permanent fixed facilities. In the seven decades since, the installation’s tradition and missions have continued to focus on answering the first call to duty–preparing Airmen for direct combat and support in an unwavering service to the nation.
Built one mile northwest of the community of Indian Springs, Nev., and about 35 miles northwest of the city of Las Vegas, Nev., the camp was named the Indian Springs Airport. The Army had contracted for regular facilities by the end of 1942, and by February 1943 the camp was used as a divert field and as a base for air-to-air gunnery training. Supporting B-17s and T-6s until March 1946, the base went into stand-by status with maintenance by a small housekeeping staff. As part of the post-war drawdown, both Indian Springs Airport and Las Vegas Army Air Field (now Nellis AFB) were inactivated in January 1947.
Along with Las Vegas Army Air Field, Indian Springs Airport reopened in January 1948 following the birth of an Independent Air Force and the onset of the Cold War. Assigned to Air Training Command, the field was subsequently redesignated Indian Springs AFB and gained its first permanently assigned Air Force unit in 1950. A renewal of airpower innovation and tactics in the service during the Korean War left its mark on the base. Made into an auxiliary field in August 1951, the base transferred to the Air Research and Development Command in July 1952, and realigned under the Air Force Special Weapons Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico. After the 3600th Air Demonstration Team “Thunderbirds” moved to Nellis AFB in June 1956, the Indian Springs airfield became their primary air demonstration practice site.
In 1961, control of the installation at Indian Springs shifted to Tactical Air Command. The base’s myriad of roles throughout the 20th century belied its size and resources. A successive string of host and tenant organizations, ranging from groups to detachments, provided support to on- and off-site missions. Critical but little known responsibilities included support to the Continental Nuclear Test Program and service as a key staging base for the delivery of testing materials to the Soviet Union for joint verification tests. The base’s proximity to such remote but essential locations led to the arrival of its most distinguished visitor on December 8, 1962, as President John F. Kennedy arrived at Indian Springs AFB before proceeding by helicopter to the Nevada Test Site for an inspection of those facilities.
During this era the base had two enduring and well known roles. It provided range maintenance for sections of the huge Nellis Test and Training Range. Concurrently, it served as a recurring host base for deployments by Airmen and aviators from all the services in search of realistic, less constrained field training. Despite these vital and persistent contributions to critical missions and the development of air superiority, the base acquired no singular operational mission of its own. A detachment of UH-1n helicopters in the 1970s and 1980s constituted the only aircraft unit assigned to the installation. With no fanfare, the Air Force officially redesignated the base from Indian Springs AFB to Indian Springs Air Force Auxiliary Field.
Following the inactivation of Tactical Air Command in 1992, Indian Springs AFAF fell under the new Air Combat Command. A new era began on December 13, 1996, with the first flight of the RQ-1 Predator remotely piloted aircraft at the airfield. In a defining moment of history, on the Nellis AFB Range, the Predator conducted the first successful firing of a Hellfire missile in February 2001. This transformation of a reconnaissance platform into an offensive weapon would, in a few short years, transform Indian Springs from a center of support to a center of operations reaching far beyond the horizons of the Nevada desert.
On June 20, 2005, with the transfer of the remotely piloted aviation mission to Indian Springs growing rapidly, the U.S. Air Force redesignated Indian Springs AFAF as Creech AFB in honor of Gen. Wilbur L. Creech. Naming the installation for General Creech, commander of Tactical Air Command from 1978 to 1984, and a veteran of more than 275 combat missions in Korea and Vietnam, was all the more fitting given his unofficial title as the “father of the Thunderbirds.” A fearless pioneer, and commander of the Skyblazers Aerial Demonstration team that preceded the Thunderbirds, General Creech became a Thunderbird pilot and senior mentor.
The shifting of a global remotely piloted aviation mission to Creech AFB, to include aircrew training and the supporting, directing and coordination of combat sorties halfway across the world, continues to the present. On March 13, 2007, the arrival of the first MQ-9 Reaper at Creech marked another milestone in the base’s growing fleet of remotely piloted aircraft. The U.S. Air Force provided for direct leadership of these missions on May 1, 2007, with the activation of the 432d Wing at Creech. Activation of the 432d Air Expeditionary Wing at Creech on May 15, 2008 formally recognized the full spectrum of these operations.
Today Creech continues to serve as the aerial demonstration training site of the Air Force’s Thunderbirds, and to engage in daily Overseas Contingency Operations as the home base of remotely piloted aircraft systems which fly missions across the globe.
For additional information, visit the Creech Air Force Base website.