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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- About 50 armed civilians began providing security at Hill Air Force Base's entry gates this week.
The Air Force awarded a company a $23 million contract to supply armed civilian guards for Hill and 10 other military installations.
National Guard units had been helping with security, but so many of them have been deployed to the Middle East and elsewhere that their stateside missions may be strained, the General Accounting Office said.
"As far as I know, this is the first time in the history of the base that private security guards are being used," said 2nd Lt. Caroline Wellman, a Hill spokeswoman. "Because our own forces have been so tasked, we need this additional personnel."
Last year, Hill turned to an Idaho National Guard artillery unit to help with security, but now much of the Idaho Guard has been mobilized.
The Air Force awarded Worldwide Security Services Ltd., an affiliate of Covenant Services Worldwide, the contract on April 7.
(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)