Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal
Kirtland Air Force Base is not the only military installation in New Mexico limiting access to military retirees during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Holloman Air Force Base, near Alamogordo, has similar restrictions in place, while Cannon Air Force Base, near Clovis, isn’t allowing retirees on base at all.
But White Sands Missile Range is allowing retirees to shop at the commissary and the base exchange as long as they follow guidelines to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Holloman spokeswoman Denise Ottaviano told the Journal retirees have access only to the Holloman Medical Clinic on base. At Kirtland, retirees are limited to the pharmacy. As is the case at Kirtland, the restrictions do not apply to retirees who live on base or work as mission-essential employees.
“The goal of this temporary limitation is to keep the number of people accessing the base and interacting with the base population to an absolute minimum, in line with state, national and Department of Defense guidance,” she said in an email.
Kirtland installation commander Col. David Miller and Cannon installation commander Col. Robert Masaitis gave similar reasons for their restrictions. Cannon spokesman Marcel Williams told the Journal that retirees aren’t allowed on base but do have access to the pharmacy through a point of distribution at the visitor center.
“It was not an easy decision,” Masaitis said during a virtual town hall last month posted on the installation’s Facebook page. “It’s certainly not one I took lightly. I still believe it is in the best interest of our retirement community, and our active duty personnel and family members to minimize travel onto and off of Cannon Air Force Base.”
Williams said Masaitis is expected to give an update on a timeline for lifting some restrictions in the next couple of days.
White Sands Missile Range is an exception when it comes to restricting access to retirees. Installation spokesman John Hamilton said restrictions “aren’t as tight” due to the range’s remote location in southern New Mexico and a mission as a test center with no deployable units.
He said retirees have access to the base with proper identification. Hamilton said they can shop at the commissary and base exchange as long as they “follow all current policies, like wearing masks, signing in with names and contact info when they enter a store or facility and keeping distance from other customers.”
Veterans critical of restrictions put into place at Kirtland, Cannon and Holloman told the Journal that shopping at commissaries on bases helps retirees who are struggling financially because they offer savings not found off base. According to a Defense Commissary Agency report in January, the commissaries in the region that includes New Mexico offered customers a 20.8% savings in fiscal year 2019.